The Many Benefits of Handstands for Health
Watching any child pop up into a handstand and jump back down on any playground, you are likely to see a broad grin: the benefits of a playful handstand is immediately obvious to a child. Whether done as play, in gymnastics or a yoga practice, handstands invert the body and help reverse the adverse effects of gravity.
Stimulates Endocrine System
Handstands are considered elevations in the yoga system because the head is lower than the heart in the final pose. Handstand, or Adho Mukha Vrkasana, helps to stimulate the entire endocrine system, according to Pam Werner of Sun and Moon Yoga Studio in Fairfax, Virginia. Once the body is turned upside down with the feet at the top and head closest to the ground, blood is moved to the head. This stimulates the pituitary gland in the head, which helps the set point for a healthy weight. The inversion brings blood to the thyroid glands to help regulate the production of T3 and T4, which also affects metabolism. Handstand brings blood to the adrenal glands to help reduce production of cortisol, the “stress hormone” that is released when we are on a deadline or moving through heavy traffic. Unchecked, some people experience adrenal exhaustion if they are not able to quiet this normal response to stressful situations.
Builds Upper Body Strength
Handstands requires upper body strength and this will build the large muscles used to sustain it, according to B.K.S. Iyengar, the venerable founder of Iyengar yoga, practiced worldwide. These include the pectoralis major of the chest, the front of the shoulders, anterior deltoids and the back of the shoulders, posterior deltoids. You also build muscular strength of the large muscles of the back: latissimus and trapezius.
Helps Relieve Minor Depression
Handstands are a well-known remedy in yoga circles as a mood-elevator and can help reduce minor depression, according to "Yoga Journal." By bringing blood to the head, you often can relieve a minor headache, improve digestion and elimination. The reason is gravity is bringing blood — and oxygen to the head, which is normally upright and slung forward to some degree that can create minor neck strain. During handstands, the small and large intestine are also inverted and the action of the inversion can help relieve irregularity by moving their contents. The inversion also puts pressure on the illeocecal valve, which can help prompt detoxification.
Sava Tang Alcantara has been a writer and editor since 1988, working as a writer and editor for health publications such as "Let's Live Magazine" and "Whole Life Times." Alcantara specializes in health and fitness and is a certified yoga teacher and personal trainer. She does volunteer work regularly and has taught free public yoga classes in Santa Monica, Calif. since 2002.