Handstands by Nick Brewer
I'm always asked if a student should or shouldn't do handstands. They seem to be the most popular pose right now having been integrated into some yoga sequences and classes through gymnastics which is great. They are also a great tool for gaining upper body strength especially in people who struggle with hyper mobility and upper body instability and help over come fear and help aid concentration.So when should or shouldn't a handstand be offered or taught to a student. There are two types of handstands, the 'equilibrist' and the 'gymnast'. And there are some differences. The 'equilibrist' handstand is one of great balance but the body is soft which can lead to firing up the wrong muscles, placing a lot of stress on the deltoids, and the spinal and shoulder alignment isn't always great. It can have a slight hanging in the shoulders and spine. The 'gymnast' handstand is trained very differently and the body is active. With masses of shoulder protraction, more emphasis on shoulder and spinal alignment and firm legs and glutes. The body would appear to be as flat as plank.In my experience I was told to stop doing handstands as it would tighten up my shoulder girdle and reduce spinal extension in back bends. Which it did. At the time I was using the equilibrist method and due to my body type I had a back bend like a coffee table. Then I met a gymnast trainer who spotted my form as an equilibrist but said that my shoulder and spinal alignment was wrong. I retrained my handstands with the correct mobility and alignment my back opened up even by increasing the amount of handstands I was doing.So there is no one answer suits all. It would depend on body type, weaknesses and strengths looking at it purely from the physical aspect. If I had a student with a weak serratus and very little shoulder stability that was hyper mobile in the back then yes I would train them in handstands through the gymnastics methods to support the mobility with stability. That way all the stress is not put through the deltoids. The serratus works in a similar fashion to the psoas. As handstand progresses so should the mobility in your shoulders to match the strength gained.