In adho mukha vrksasana (pronounced AHD-hoh MOOK-hah vrik-SHAH-sah-nah), adho mukha means "face down," and vrksa means "tree," so just as headstand is mountain pose upside down, handstand is tree pose upside down. To properly perform this "face-down tree" pose or handstand, your arms must be strong. Practice the downward facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana, described in Chapter 18, "Take the Forward Path") to develop your arms and prepare your body for the handstand.
The handstand gives you tremendous energy. It strengthens your arms and shoulders, plus gives you all the blood-cleansing effects of inversions. If trying this pose scares you, work with a partner who can spot you. The handstand, however, requires a lot of combined abdominal and upper-body strength. If you're not strong enough, concentrate on perfecting headstand poses and the downward facing dog pose.
Inversions can be incredibly refreshing and invigorating. Twists also keep the spine flexible and youthful, so dive into this yoga fountain of youth ... head first!
1. Perform downward facing dog (see Chapter 18) in front of a wall, as the yogi is doing in the drawing. Place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and about three to five inches from the wall. Slowly walk your legs in toward the wall.
2. Exhale and lift one leg straight up. Follow quickly with the other. Keep your arms and legs straight and firm. Push your shoulders away from the floor, and rest your outstretched legs lightly against the wall.
Moving from the downward facing dog pose into a handstand.
3. Hold the pose for as long as is comfortable. Breathe! Exhale as you come down.
4. Yoga Adventure: If you are a very experienced yogi who can balance easily in a handstand, try this pose without a wall. But don't try this unsupported pose prematurely. Falling over the wrong way could cause you serious injury. If you do start to fall, bend your knees and roll out of the fall safely.
Now you have some basic (and some advanced) poses under your belt. Having fun? We are! But we have more fun in store, in the way of flow poses, or vinyasa. Read on to learn how to string yoga poses together in a continuous flow.
The Least You Need to Know
^ Spinal twists gently massage internal organs, strengthen the spine, and purify your system.
^ Inversions—the bridge, shoulderstand, plough, headstand, and handstandare yoga's fountain of youth: They keep you young!
^ Inversions send blood to the brain—that's brain power!
^ A Continuous
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