Videos: Yoga Poses That’ll Get You Ready to Handstand

They'll tone your shoulders, arms, and core at the same time.

In a standard, all-levels yoga class, there isn’t enough time to stop and safely teach each student how to handstand. And unless you’re a born gymnast, or practiced handstands growing up, learning how to get upside down isn’t easy.

If you’re itching to learn, ask your yoga teacher if he or she offers private lessons or, better yet, sign up for an arm balance workshop at your favorite studio. In the meantime, here are five yoga poses that’ll help strengthen your core, shoulders, and arms to prepare for handstands.

Chaturanga flow
Start in downward-facing dog. Inhale and rock forward into a plank position. Bring your shoulders over your wrists and look forward. On an exhale, lower down halfway. As you lower halfway, bring your elbows into your sides, keep your body in a straight line, and don’t let your shoulders sink lower than your elbows. Inhale and come into upward facing dog, pressing down into the hands and feet. Exhale and return to downward-facing dog. Complete 10 rounds, then rest in child’s pose.

Dolphin to downward-facing dog
Come into a forearm plank, with your hands flat on the mat. Check to make sure your shoulders are right over your elbows, and your forearms are shoulder-width apart. Inhale in forearm plank, then exhale as your lift your hips to dolphin pose (downward-facing dog on your forearms). As your move into this pose, walk your toes up your mat a couple of inches.

To move from dolphin to downward-facing dog, take a deep breath, then exhale as you lift both forearms off the mat at the same time. Inhale in downward-facing dog, then exhale and lower the forearms back down simultaneously. Inhale in dolphin pose, then exhale as your rock back out to forearm plank. As you come into plank, walk your toes back a couple of inches to allow your hips to lower. Complete five to 10 rounds, then rest in child’s pose.

Three-legged dog to three-limbed plank
To build shoulder strength needed for handstands, practice three-legged dog. Come into downward-facing dog, then lift your right leg off of the mat. Turn your toes down toward the ground and engage your core. Hold for several breaths, then inhale and rock forward to three-limbed plank. Exhale and return to three-legged dog. Complete five rounds, then switch to the left leg.

Standing split
Begin in a forward fold. Soften your knees and inhale to a flat back, coming onto tented fingers. Lift your right leg into the air on your next inhale, then fold forward on an exhale. Flex your right foot and turn your toes toward the mat. If possible, press your hands flat into the mat. Hold for several breaths, then switch sides.

Bonus: From standing split, you can practice handstand hops. Soften your standing knee and place your hands flat on the mat. Inhale, then exhale to contract the core and pop up to a handstand. The lifted leg will come perpendicular to the floor, while the standing leg comes parallel to the floor, creating an L shape.

Low boat pose
Having a strong core is essential to moving in and out of arm balances safely. Sit down and come into boat pose. Inhale, then exhale while lowering into low boat pose. Keep the heels and shoulders lifted, and arms extended by your sides. Hold for three breaths, then return to boat. Complete three to five rounds.