In week 3 of Empowered Handstand Challenge we will look at perhaps the most overlooked component of executing Handstand: The Pelvis. The joint actions in handstand of the pelvis are as follows: Hips Extend, internally rotate and adduct:
At this point you can think of handstand as “stacking the joints” Similar to building a tower out of blocks, the hips and pelvis are connected to the lumbar spine and any wobbling in the pelvis will create instability in the pose which will create tremendous strain in the shoulders, arms and wrist as they try to hold down the fort (think jenga). Quite often when we kick up into handstand or jump into handstand we either flail the legs, create too much forward momentum or sacrifice the balance in the pelvis to lift the leg higher (for the kick up). Regardless of the entrance, any three of these actions will decrease the stability and balance in pelvis and hips and require more work in the core, shoulders and wrists once up in the air. As we focus on the “pelvic core” this week, we will look at how we can create stability through the conscious engagement of the muscles that surround the pelvis as well as the thighs; Our Roots.
From Roots we Rise: Stability from the roots
The root chakra (muladahara) is the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine (lowest point in the pelvis). Muladhara is associated with instinctual desires, stability, safety and infancy; it is your survival center. Similar to the discussion from last weeks blog about the back-body, fear and the kidney meridian, your fight-or-flight response is initiated from the root chakra. The energy of Muladhara allows us to harness courage, resourcefulness in challenging times, such as balancing on your hands upside down.
Our roots are our connection to the earth and therefore serve to ground us. Grounding orients us in space and time. It allows us to SHOW UP in the moment, detaching from future based expectations and fears as well as past retreats and defeats. To be strongly grounded allows us to stand on our own two feet and face what is in front of us without flinching, to remain anchored to our truth in the face of opposition. From security we can then safely explore the idea of movement and creativity; only when we feel safe and grounded can we learn to let go and flow. As we lift the energy from the roots up into the pelvis (much like a plant draws water up its trunk) we create inertia, momentum and desire, allowing us to become un stuck as opposed to uprooted, propelling us forward in the direction of our goals.
Mulabandha is a technique for arousing the powerful grounding/manifesting energy. It is located at the root of our spine, in the perineum. Hui Yin the first point on the Conception Vessel from Traditional Chinese Medicine is also located here.
Mulabandha or “root lock” is for the most part over engaged and emphasized. Often language like “do a Kegal” or “contract and lift your anus” is used. In a society that is plagued with digestive issue and sexual dysfunction, this may not be helpful. As far as handstand is concerned ( as well a a functional pelvic floor and vibrant sex life) the effective usage of mulabandha comes from the SUBTLE lifting inside the pelvis, combined with subtle contractions of the muscles surrounding the outside of the pelvis and the contraction of the TA abdominals (this is referred to a pelvic core) When mulabandha is engaged in this way it becomes the internal “safety net” that calms the fight o flight response that is inclined to kick in when you “just jump” up into the pose without properly setting it up.
In Latin, “pelvis” means basin. In ideal conditions the basin wouldn’t spill out the front or the back or from left to right. When the basin is in “anterior tilt” the lumbar over extends and the muscles in the lower back tighten, causing the low back to over extend, the net result being that you to somersault out of handstand as fast as you kick up. When the basin is in a “posterior tilt” the lumbar curve flattens and you can’t seem to get lift off. Everybody has a slightly different lumbar curve, some people will look more straight up and down in the pose while others will display more of an arch. The key is to find neutral pelvis and then allow the lumbar to be in its natural curve supported by the core muscles.
Step 1: Squeeze your Butt
Engaging the Gluteus Maximus will lift the legs into the handstand position and extend the hip joint. Often when lifting up we over squeeze the gluteals and the legs externally rotate and abduct creating wobbling in the pelvis
Exercises to awaken: Heal Taps, Standing Splits, Squats, Bridge, locust with bent knees
Cues: Extend back and lift up through the heal, tone the buttocks
Step 2: Abduct and Internally Rotate
The TFL and Gluteus meddius-counteract external rotation of the Gluteus Maximus creating balance in the pelvis. These two muscles work to internally rotate the thigh as well as to abduct the thigh.
Exercises to awaken: Chair with a block, forward bends (press down into the feet, imagine whipping the feet apart and internally rotate the inner thighs back), bridge with a block, side leg raises, Half-moon, Modified side-arm balance with leg raise
Cues: Press the outer edges of the feet away, Imagine wiping the feet apart, turn inner thighs back, internally rotate the thighs, turn the inseams back
Step 3: Squeeze your Inner Thighs
Turning on the Adductors by squeezing the legs together will contract the Abbduction caused by the internal rotators (TFL and Gluteus Medius) and in turn will stabilize the pelvis
Exercises to awaken: Chair with a block, Eagle, Sizzors
Cues: Squeeze the inner thighs
Step 4: Tone the thighs
You take a block from the middle and you put it on top…….Once we have the shoulders set, The spine stabilized, the pelvis stacked we need to get the legs straight and strong. Contract the quadriceps to straighten the legs. Watch that you don’t over squeeze the quads as they will pull the legs into external rotation. keep the knee caps straight and toes in a straight line.
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