The Subconscious Motivation To Master Handstand

The Subconscious Motivation To Master Handstand

Handstand Rey CardenasI’ve been thinking about handstand and why so many people (myself included) are inspired to master this pose. Even as a child I remember being drawn to the innate potential of balancing on my hands. It seems to me that people are fascinated, perhaps on an unconscious level, by handstand because it is an embodied metaphor for keeping it together in a state of chaos. I want to unpack this idea a bit and hear your thoughts on the matter.

In chaos, your world is flipped upside down (**obvious connection alert**), and perhaps you don’t know where you are. For example, you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, and you find out your partner is cheating and leaving you. All of a sudden, every aspect of your carefully crafted existence has been shattered including your perceptions of your own identity. You are in chaos, and your nervous system switches you into predatory threat mode.

The question now is, what should you do when you are in a state of chaos? The first thing that you need to do when you don’t know where you are is PAY ATTENTION. One reason being that you don’t know what else might come up and pull you down. Focusing your awareness enables you to learn about where you are and derive value from your circumstance. For example, you might come to understand the ways in which you were complicit in the destruction of your relationship. These insights strengthen you and allow you to establish a new and improved order in your life.

Attention is the requisite action for handstand.

Proprioception, or the use of attention to activate specific muscles in your body, not brute strength, is what enables you to stack your feet over your hips over your shoulders over your hands and hold it. The result: You get stronger. If your attention wanes, gravity will pull you down, and you may injure yourself. Holding handstand forces you to be present.

I want to offer a cautionary disclaimer not to over practice handstand.

It is a super fun, flamboyant pose that garners admiration which can be addicting. Handstand in Sanskrit is adho muhka vrksasana which means downward facing tree. The image itself is chaotic and unsustainable. Our subconscious mind associates trees with ‘home’ because our ancestors used to live in trees. Flipping that upside down reinforces the chaotic metaphor.

When practicing handstand, you must continuously pay attention to how your wrists, neck, shoulders, and back are feeling and be willing to take long breaks when your body tells you to. I have personal experience overdoing handstand and have heard stories of former handstand masters who are now in their 50s and can no longer lift their arms in the overhead plane. Handstand is the application of order onto chaos and should be practiced with great care. After all, spending too much time in chaos can break you.

~ Rey Cardenas, Studio Owner and Instructor

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