the handstand video that never was

so….i have a lot of handstand tutorials online. on youtube, i have 62 videos in my handstand mania playlist, including 31 handstand drill-a-day vids. and on my vimeo channel, it’s simply handstander’s paradise!

but there is one handstand video i’ve been wanting to make for years but just haven’t been able to figure out how.

you might think i’m talking about some complex jump or press or transition. but, no. i have videos to cover all that.

the video i’ve not been able to make is how to cartwheel out of handstand when you think you are falling. seems like it would be the easiest of all videos to make, doesn’t it? because it’s about falling. we are all pretty facile at that!

i mean, i know how to cartwheel out. i do it all the time. in fact, it’s been at least a decade (probably a lot longer) since i fell backwards out of a handstand. you basically pick a hand (with me, it’s always the left), step it forward a few inches (and maybe across, in front of the other hand if you are falling strongly to the side), and then take the associated leg (left for me) down to the side, followed by the other. i know that’s a crappy explanation, but you get the gist. if i made the video, it would be a lot clearer…

after years of thinking about how to present this, i finally realized this week why i never did: because in order to cartwheel out of a handstand, you actually have to have control of your balance–even while you are falling.

most people who want instruction on cartwheeling out want it because they don’t have control and they just keep falling over. but you can’t control your fall unless you can control your entire process. in essence, you have to know you are going to fall before you are going to fall and then pre-empt that fall with a lovely cartwheel.

by the way, there’s nothing wrong with flipping over if you know how to do it safely (i do have a video on that)! in fact, the benefit of flipping is that it is a symmetrical movement, so it is safer on your shoulders than cartwheeling (particularly the one that you would otherwise cartwheel into). and it doesn’t require any psychic knowledge of future flubs.

while, all in all, i think that cartwheels are less disruptive to a vinyasa practice than flipping, i also think there is a horse before the carriage aspect to this process. you want to cartwheel so you can get more control. but you have to get more control if you want to cartwheel…



  1. Charles on August 23, 2020 at 2:00 am08

    I have looked at numerous YouTube videos devoted exclusively to precisely this topic: Not how to execute a handstand — but how to fall safely when attemptlng to do one, then realizing it’s going to fail. For me, this is similar to skiing — you begin a turn, see that it’s not going to work out, so you throw it away and move immediately into the next turn. One reason l’ll never get a freestanding handstand is that I can’t practice a handstand without the security of having a wall (or perhaps a spotter) to touch once I’m up. To make matters worse, falling safely out of a handstand always seems to require one to do a full or partial cartwheel. These explanations about h
    ow to fall seem to presume that one has a cartwheel. But I don’t even have a cartwheel. Now what? So l can’t learn handstanding partly because l have an (embarrassing) fear to try one…..athletic and fit as l am. There are videos out there about cartwheeling too. Despite all this, l would be indescribably pleased to see it all addressed by someone with the extraordinary teaching skills which Shana always exhibits. It would be fabulous to view something as wonderful as that.

    • Shana on August 23, 2020 at 2:00 am08

      Thanks, Charles! I will continue to think about how to teach it and will let you know if I do. Again, I think it is a matter of control, which is very hard to grasp when you are out of control…
      But I think the skiing analogy isn’t completely accurate. Skiing is still, essentially, an upright standing position. We have practiced safely falling out of this position since we took our first steps.
      When working with inversions, you are starting from a general disequilibrium, so catching yourself and falling safely is a completely different matter.

  2. Charles Underwood on August 25, 2020 at 2:00 pm08

    Thank you Shana. I have seen various sites about falling from a handstand. This one might be about 20 seconds long, at most, and it’s about practicing the fall from a WALL. I find the video interesting (and rather cute); maybe you and others will like it. Perhaps this could be practiced as a stand alone yoga posture — at least at first — several times a day, making constant progress — about falling ONLY…? I hope the link works, and I would love your input:

    Also, my ski bail comment was not intended to suggest, of course, that a ski turn bail would be at all the same kind of thing as a handstand bail. I meant this as a CONCEPT.
    Maybe practicing just a bail itself — as an isolated exercise, could be a good thing to do, be it yoga, skiing, or perhaps many other activities. Might this mean that a practitioner could thereby acquire the muscle memory needed to know — automatically, without having to think about it — how his body must address a problem as soon as he senses that a problem is about to appear….. whatever the sport? Might that help the practitioner acquire some of the confidence he needs to work on the posture/ski turn itself that he hopes to learn? Sorry, this is poor writing, but l hope what l am saying is clear. Thank you again, Shana.

    • Shana on August 25, 2020 at 2:00 pm08

      My blog explains my thoughts on this fairly succinctly.
      Any teacher or student is more than welcome to disagree, but it is something I have thought about for years and my conclusion is that it is not something teachable. If it were, I assume you wouldn’t be looking to me to make that tutorial, as you have already watched a number of other teachers try to teach it online.
      As to the video you sent…it is working from the wall–a fully balanced posture–to start. The “fall” is self-created and inauthentic to the true experience of falling when kicking up without a wall. If you think it is helpful then, by all means, practice it.

  3. Charles Underwood on August 26, 2020 at 2:00 am08

    Sure the video l sent illustrated what could perhaps be called an “artificially controlled” exercise, but l would have thought it might be at least a start — maybe helping a student a little with the fear factor. But l haven’t tried this or any other methods of falling safely, so maybe it’s not.

    Thank you for commenting — that’s what l really wanted.

    Regarding your asumption — yes, I have watched other online instructors trying to teach falling from handstands. But those instructors aren’t YOU. Whatever videos l view regarding anything having to do with yoga, it’s YOUR videos I value most, because l have such admiration for you and your extraordinary abilities as a yoga practitioner and teacher. So l hope very much that you will figure out a way to teach falling, or at least provide a video about how YOU do it — or used to. Fear of injury from falling is the very reason l can’t bring myself even to attempt a free standing handstand. And If how to fall is not teachable, then how do teachers deal with that fear with their students? Or maybe those students are stronger than l, simply don’t have any fear, aren’t 68 years old — and l am even more of a wimp than I thought l was. I’ll check Vimeo, but if you ever do figure out how to teach this — or could even just provide a few comments about it, in “handstand video that never was” — l would deeply appreciate it. Thank you, Shana

    • Shana on August 26, 2020 at 2:00 pm08

      I appreciate that so much. You are very kind.
      What I do teach people about falling is how to flip over (or try to save yourself from flipping over). That is catchable. You press strongly into your fingertips, lift your collarbones and look up like crazy.
      Otherwise, I suggest people continue to work in front of the wall if they are scared. And then start from baby baby steps when they are ready to try in the middle of the room.
      This is my favorite drill for people who are scared in the middle of the room:

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