Nothing says “look at me!” quite like a handstand. It was especially effective as a kid. But, for many adults, the handstand is just another relic of childhood left behind. And that’s too bad.
Handstands can have very practical uses; even animals know that.
Like dogs, panda bears are known to “mark their territory” in nature. But at some point you have to imagine that stuff all kind of smells the same. So what’s an adorably terrifying bear to do to set itself apart? This panda decided to do a handstand while staking his claim. Apparently this is very common among pandas: their urine contains pheromones, and can attract more potential Mrs. Pandas if it is higher up a tree.
Say you’re a skunk, and want to show the world you have more to offer the world than your better known, albeit less desirable traits. Find a wilderness camera and show the world you’re a handstanding machine![gfycat data_id=”QueasyVariableCoyote”]
And in the household, a double-amputee cat named Boots uses handstands to get up and down the stairs of her home. Boots shows incredible body control and has no doubt become the biggest inspiration in the domestic feline community since the kitten from the “Hang in there, baby” posters.
But enough about the animal kingdom, what about the home team? What can handstands do for those of us good ol’ Homo sapiens?
Well, if you work hard enough, you can become a handstand master. Tameru Zegeye, the “Miracle Man of Ethiopia”, set a world record for travelling 76 meters in one minute while balanced on hand crutches.
Lilia Stepanova is even further outside the box. She showcased her abilities on America’s Got Talent by doing a handstand and shooting a bow and arrow with her feet. Feel free to read that sentence again.
And yes, she got a bullseye.
You may be wondering, other than blowing David Hasselhoff’s mind, what good can a handstand do for you? A whole lot, as it turns out.
Handstands require a whole log of shoulder, arm and upper back strength, so you’re sure to get a solid upper body workout. But that’s not all — your core gets in on the action as well, since being upside down puts constant tension on your abs, hamstrings and hip flexors.
And if you’re looking to improve your balance, this is a natural way to do it as you’ll need complete control of your body to avoid toppling over.
And let’s remember, the better you are at handstands, the closer you are to nailing the handstand push-up, a highly challenging calisthenics maneuver.
But the benefits go beyond improving muscle and stability. According to Yoga.org, handstands are “great for relieving stress and reducing depression.” And MindBodyGreen.com says doing handstands can improve your mood, due to the increased blood flow to your brain while looking down at the sky. The blood flow has an energizing and calming effect.
Now, when we talk about handstands, there are really two variations: the curved back and the straight back.
The straight back is definitely the more difficult of the two. To keep your body completely straight in handstand position is one of those things that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. In order to do it, you must put your body in what gymnasts call the “hollow position”. This means contracting your abs and tilting your pelvis upwards, thereby countering your lower back’s natural inclination to bend in the handstand.
The curved back handstand, while certainly easier, is no picnic if you’re a handstand novice. Some have voiced concerns that this handstand is unhealthy for your back. While it’s definitely something to be mindful of, there’s nothing wrong in principle to curving your spine. As long as you prepare the rest of your body for your legs naturally leaning to the ground, you should be alright.