How Do Handstands In Yoga Compare To Handstands In Gymnastics


JULY, 2021

Handstands in yoga are quite unique. Handstands seamlessly blend in with the myriad of yoga poses that invert the body in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes.

In yoga the formal name for handstands is Adho Mukha Vrksasana, and they are seen as an intermediate skill that requires balance and self awareness.

Many other disciplines such as calisthenics and gymnastics also incorporate handstands, but they are different – at least to the trained eye. The difference lies in the way the different practitioners enter the handstand and the shape of the handstand itself.

Also check out our Learning Handstands Blog Post & our Guide on Handstand Push Ups!

parallettes product
parallettes product

Handstands In Yoga

Traditionally in yoga, the handstand kick up is done from the ground. This is generally less intimidating for beginners as it allows for less room for error. This goes hand in hand with flexibility, as to get the most out of this handstand entry, there needs to be considerable elasticity in the back as the legs are prevented from generating significant force.

Yoga also typically teaches a more stacked shape where the body is completely straight, as opposed to the gymnastics shape which is more hollow. The stacked form allows the muscles to rest on locked joints – think of standing – the knees are locked and the legs do barely any work (as opposed to standing with bent legs).

In gymnastics and calisthenics, the arms are also locked but the shape is slightly more hollow, with the centre of gravity falling just outside of the body.

Handstands In Gymnastics And Calisthenics

Generally speaking, the ‘gymnastics’ handstand is the most commonly used in other related disciplines such as calisthenics. In gymnastics, unlike the handstands in yoga, the handstand is initiated from standing.

By lunging forward and placing the hands close to the leading foot, gymnasts are able create heel drive through the lagging leg. This leg ‘kicks’ in a straight, circular arc and generates significant momentum. This momentum allows gymnasts to hit the handstand with very little effort – the challenge of course is not tipping over forward in the process!

In gymnastics there are many other ways to enter the handstand as well. Notably there are many different types of ‘press to handstand’ variations. The standard press to handstand involves starting by reaching for the space just in front of the feet and leaning forward over the hands.

When the centre of balance changes enough the feet should come off the ground and make a wide arch and come back together at the top of the handstand. There are also pike, wide arm and other variations of the basic press to handstand.

Handstands On The Floor Vs On The Paralettes

Handstands in yoga are exclusively done on the floor, but in gymnastics they are also done on paralettes and parallel bars. Handstands on parallel bars are more intimidating but allow for more wrist control. On the other hand, handstands on the floor allow for the manipulation of the handstand through finger control.

Generally speaking the wrist control is stronger and so handstands on paralettes and parallel bars are easier. Doing handstands on this piece of calisthenics equipment is also great for people that find handstands on the floor cause wrist pain. Due to the different distribution of pressure on the paralettes and parallel bars, often this can negate pain caused by the floor.  

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
Related Posts
How to Stay Fresh and Cool for a Better Workout

How to Stay Fresh and Cool for a Better Workout

How To Stay Fresh And Cool For A Better Workout10JULY, 2021Exercise raises body temperature. As you convert more energy to produce movement, heat is released. It’s completely natural to have an increase in core body temperature during a workout, and the body has...

read more
calisthenics in melbourne
pt service
handstand volcano bali blog
your trainer