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HOW TO HANDSTAND

Getting over the fear of Handstands

Scared of falling out of a handstand?! Good! You should be but you should also realize that what you are feeling isn’t actually fear. It is respect, appreciation for your body, it’s temporary limitations and respect for the new movement at hand. 

Around age 14 we went to a climbing forest with my sports team. Many of us (mainly me) were actually terrified. We obviously had lines yet the height and uncertainty of leaping from 1 tree to another tickled me in a rather unfamiliar and most uncomfortable way. Our adventure leader pulled me to the side. She said: Little one! You are not scared. You simply have respect for the height. You are in lines. You know nothing can happen to you. Trust in your instincts and in the security that you know you have. 

Did this help me?! No, not at all. Was she right?! Yes, absolutely.

It wasn’t until many years later that I truly appreciated what she taught me that day. Without even realizing it she raised me on this day like barely any other coach before or after her. We have to separate fear from respect. You are not actually scared of new movements or drills. You simply respect them for their complexity and apparent difficulty. 

Here are some steps of how to get over this initial fear. While these steps and this article specializes on the fear of falling out of a handstand you can transform all of these principles towards any kind of physical activity or even general life scenarios.

It wasn’t until many years later that I truly appreciated what she taught me that day. Without even realizing it she raised me on this day like barely any other coach before or after her. We have to separate fear from respect. You are not actually scared of new movements or drills. You simply respect them for their complexity and apparent difficulty. 

Here are some steps of how to get over this initial fear. While these steps and this article specializes on the fear of falling out of a handstand you can transform all of these principles towards any kind of physical activity or even general life scenarios.

Train appropriate progressions

One of the main reasons why you might be scared of what you are about to do is simply because you should not be doing what you are about to do. A common one for this is the chest to wall handstand. While the chest to wall handstand is a great drill and definitely a milestone in your handstand journey it is not something to be laughed at. Many are scared to walk close to the wall with their hands. Of course you would be. A lot could go wrong and if your body is not ready yet you shouldn’t attempt the chest to wall handstand. The beauty is that there are plenty of progressions to get you to the chest to wall handstand slowly. Think L Handstand, Wall Crow, Single leg wall Crow, chest to wall handstand with the hands further away. Find your appropriate progression where you are challenged yet that fear is not mind numbing yet controllable. Stay here for a week or 2 and slowly work your way towards your goals and eventually well past them.

Learn cartwheels, basic acrobatics and finally how to bail

Now the main thing that you are probably scared of is losing balance, your body not knowing how to react, gravity doing its thing and you falling straight on your back. Now again, this is a fear that is completely understandable and that truly everybody feels at first! The best thing to do here is to tackle this fear right face on. Analyze it! What really scares you is that you are in an unfamiliar situation that could potentially hurt you and happens rather quickly. I usually hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Instead of ignoring the issue at hand and hoping it will never come to it, let’s actually prepare for the crash. Practice basic floor acrobatics. Pull out a mattress and work on some front rolls, some ninja rolls and even small cartwheels close to the floor. This doesn’t have to be very serious practice. It can literally just be playtime! Jam around a bit and you will see: you might even enjoy it.

The more aware you get with your body in these tumbling situations the more trust you will develop into your body, knowing you will react in a safe manner if things go sideways ultimately losing all fear there used to be!

Build Strength, awareness and confidence

If your mind tells you not to go upside down because you are scared your arms might collapse then your mind might be right. You can not expect your arms to support you if you have never trained them. Your body probably already knows that your arms are ready for what’s about to happen so they signal the brain that what’s about to go down might not be the best idea. So instead of right away tackling the handstand let’s start easy. Let’s work on a push up hold, then an elevated push up hold. Follow this by actually working on some push ups on your knees or without them before elevating the feet higher and working towards an L handstand. Give your body time to build up strength and resistance. With strength comes confidence. Building muscle will take some time. That is normal. During this time your body will adapt to new movement patterns and your mind will get used to the new impulses.

Give you body and mind time to adjust

This one is the big one. Give your body time! And with giving the body time I do not mean 20 min. I mean 20 days. Actually consistently face your fear with the above described strategies 3 times a week for 3 weeks. Trust me. When you reach that final day you will laugh at yourself looking back at day 1. 3 weeks are not long when it comes to developing strength, flexibility or skill but 21 days are good enough to get your mind and body adjusted to new impulses. The problem is that when we try something new it is usually inspired by someone who is very good at it. People who are good at something have usually practiced for a VERY long time. Someone who has practiced for a long time usually makes things look very easy leading you to believe that this should be easy for you. That is the definition of a professional. You are just starting out. You are not a professional just yet. So don’t kid yourself into believing you can make up for years of hard work in a couple attempts. Allow your body to take the appropriate time to get there. Learn to enjoy the journey and celebrate every small victory like it is your first one!

So as you can see. It is ok to have fear. Anything new is scary. Take a step back and focus on foundational work. Give your body and mind time to truly accept the new movement patterns. Build more strength than you need to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations and learn the most basic acrobatics such as front rolls or small cartwheels close to the floor to bail out of your handstand like a ninja. 

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