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shoulder extension in handstand


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Guest Ido Portal

Balance on one arm, on two arms, Yoga practitioners do not reach the level to which Equilbrists are striving for.

Never seen a Yogi do a correct two arm handstand that will lead to above 5 min holds, or even greater achievements like 20-30 min on two arms in the same place, or the best I have heard 1:20 hour two arm handstand. (by an ex-chinese acrobat who teaches nowdays in the SF circus school)

The only thing worse than a Yoga handstand is a capoeira handstand, and I am a capoeirista, but I have to admit it. No way will you achieve such high levels as described above with such a bad postural alignment. My 2 cents.

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Coach Sommer
I consider one-armed handstands a different breed altogether.

Rather than an entirely separate category, I view one arm HS work as the logical extension of how two arm HS work becomes progressively more difficult. In my opinion, the one arm HS may differ in the degree of physical intensity required, but not in regards of fundamental physiological alignment compared to a two arm HS. In fact, I believe that the very intensity of the one arm HS helps to illuminate which technique is the most effective for two arm HS work.

However, having said that, we may also have simply reached the point where we have to agree to disagree :).

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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The only thing worse than a Yoga handstand is a capoeira handstand, and I am a capoeirista, but I have to admit it. No way will you achieve such high levels as described above with such a bad postural alignment. My 2 cents.

What characterizes a capoeira-handstand?

The only characteristic I know is to have the head in between your arms and look at your opponent. But that doesn't imply bad alignment. Having the head in seems good to me compared with sticking it out to the front.

Of course, many capoeirista have bad alignment (from an handbalancer's perspective), because usually there's not that much emphasis on handstands in capoeira-training.

Regarding Yoga: my yoga teacher always put emphasis on supporting the body with muscles and not the bones/joints.

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Jason Stein

Ido, Coach Sommer,

Done intentionally, the yoga-banana-handstand is perfectly acceptable, if your goal is to get inverted, build base levels of upper body strength, as well as arch the spine.

Obviously, what may be acceptable in yoga may not be acceptable in capoiera, and from what I understand an arched back, however slight, is no longer (but interestingly, once was) acceptable in modern gymnastic competition.

A 5-minute handstand is not the goal of yoga --- that's the goal of equilibre. Flexibility is also not the goal of yoga --- that's the goal of stretching and contortionism. The goal of yoga is yoga, or union.

In almost all yoga systems of which I'm aware, any ability to hold oneself on one's arms is a byproduct, a pleasant after-effect, of asana practice.

The key reason you won't see yogis doing sustained handstands is because they don't train them, except in specific circumstances and generally never as a main or focal point of a practice.

Generally, in asthanga, for example, if you learn the system in Mysore, India, they no longer teach beginners handstands, at least until a practitioner has achieved a certain amount of flexibility through the shoulder girdle and back. (It's also a logistical nightmare to have 60 people crammed in a small room independently practicing handstands.)

It's possible to build handstands into the 2 minute range strictly through yoga practice, this without holding a handstand for more than 10 seconds, and without any aim or intention of training strength or durations of hand-balancing.

However, to practice one-arm handstands (and perhaps to also reach the 4-5 minute range)? I don't know. I personally have begun incorporating more modern gymnastic (and I suppose equilibre) techniques to see where it leads.

I would compare handstand/one-arm handstand form to frog-stand/planche training.Performed a certain way, one is the foundation for the other. But one can have a lengthy frogstand with almost no carryover to tuck planche. Which is fine --- unless a tuck planche is your goal.

Palmcron --- your yoga teacher is teaching you inefficiency, exhaustion and fatigue. The idea is to align the skeleton with gravity as efficiently as possible so as not to jeopardize the joints.

Finally, I greatly look forward to conversations and information regarding this subject and others at the seminar.



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Guest Ido Portal

We have no disagreement here, as Jason himself, a yoga teacher and practitioner is aware of his need for crosstraining in other diciplines to reach a higher handstand control.

I, as a 15 year capoeira practitioner was aware that I need to widen my knowledge base and learn from masters of other diciplines in order to take my performance to the next level.

As for a capoeira handstand, I was referring to the classical, no rules but stay upside down and look at your partner-handstand. My students, who practice capoeira daily has above 60 sec handstand hold and are working towards one armers, but I brought the knowledge to do that from outside of the capoeira world.

BTW, I have said it before but will say it again: I practice yoga daily, and use it for many things, but handstand alignment is not one of them.

Stay open minded and keep advancing forward, enjoy your training,


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Andrew Browne

I saw a video of Chinese gymnasts training and they had very nice shoulder extension. But Chinese acrobats look like they don't extend that much.

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  • 1 month later...

Coach, Jason & Ido:

I cant help but say I am blessed to have you guys, Expert Practitioners from the 3 disciplines guide me on the 3 disciplines I am looking at for Long Term Fitness. i.e. Gymnastics Strength Training, Yoga & Capoeira.

I am nowhere an expert but have a strong intuition on the crossover of these things. I believe Yoga or Union has so many depths and practitioners that to specify its limits becomes naive to some extent.

The following Tough Yoga - stuff looks to me like the kind of Gymnastics Static Holds in Disadvantaged Positions. I am not saying they are the same.. but look at the Fundamental principles of both...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tough-Met ... 3210936590


(Check out the pictures)


To be invited to classes going forward, please become a fan of my new FB page just for my yoga classes, I will be sending invites to the fans only going forward to save time and make sure I'm not spamming!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tough-Met ... 3210936590


Regular Monday night class with Mike, this week will be a vigorous Shiva Namaskara (as taught by Sri Dharma Mittra - http://www.dharmamittrayoga.com/ ) followed by the inversions and arm balances.


As always, basic wrist straps, available from any gym or fitness store are always a good idea if you are taking your practice in this direction.


The class in intermediate, new students will focus on practising foundational inversions and balances while other students demonstrate/practice the next level.

My friend,

There is indeed much interesting crossover between yoga, gymnastics, traditional Indian gymnastics, even Indian dance and wrestling. The malkhamb that you mention is still very much alive and well in India --- the streets of Mumbai are filled with fakirs performing rope and pole tricks, as well as extreme yoga poses and contortionism. Though my impression was that most Indians considered it just that: extreme contortionism.

There's also quite a bit of overlap between Indian wrestling, kalari, and yoga asanas. For example, many Indian wrestlers warm up with very fast sun salutations, and there are a few yoga poses that are essentially neck bridges, which I imagine comes directly from the world of wrestling. [if you've ever seen the documentary "Choke," it shows Gracie warming up with a similar sun salutation movement.]

The point here is not to seek out the most "ancient" of these disciplines --- the details of most forms of hatha yoga, martial arts, wrestling and gymnastics in India can only be reliably dated to the 17th century --- but to see where the areas overlap --- and where they don't.

One such modern yoga synthesis of different disciplines would be Shandor Ramete's shadow yoga, which incorporates martial arts, dance and traditional yoga asanas. I'm not advocating the system, however, just pointing out that smart people with a lot of experience in broad disciplines are combining elements from each. Which is pretty much how ideas work in India --- everything gets combined into a giant melange of cross-pollination.

My favorite: potential soldiers for the Indian army had to be able to sit in lotus position.



Love your thoughts Jason. :)

Malkhamb is alive, but barely. It is not publicized or talked about in most schools or colleges for children or young practitioners.. Atleast not in the way a lot of other things have FANCY FOLLOWING thanks to Western Aping Mindset of Asians / Indians.. e.g. Asian Martial Arts, Yoga, Pilates, Kickboxing, etc. .. when the funny thing is Gracie is said to have talked about JJ & BJJ having had roots in India... and the same for Monks in Buddhist / Shaolin temples.

The traditional arts are alive, but do not have "COOL" attached to them. Probably people in the west like yourself know more about Kalari... than most Indians.

I disagree with the dating schematic till 17th Century. You have to realize western methods of dating & significance are different. Also, Indian civilization is the only surviving one for 5000 years (The last one - Egyptian.. disappeared) despite constant attack from foreign forces (Genghis, Mughals, British, Dutch, French.. etc). These forces specifically focussed on destroying a lot of existing culture & records - Temples, Records, Scriptures etc.

Nalanda University is said to have been the center of learning for 1000s of years before it was destroyed.

But I do agree with looking at the overlaps to enhance our learning. Old is Gold... especially if its not just 50-10 years old.

I'd be keen to learn more about these overlaps & your experiences: Jason, Ido & Coach :D.

PS: Which Indian Army? What era? Post independence from British?

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  • 3 months later...

This has been a very interesting thread. What I don't understand, though, is how one can say which manner of performing a handstand is the "yoga" way. I am not aware that there is any particular person or organization that specifies the correct way of performing or holding an asana; rather, there are numerous schools of yoga, and diverse approaches to the physical practice of yoga, which is only one part of the larger committment to unification, in the literal interpration of the word into English. That is, if I do a handstand more in the style as is taught for gymnastics, but I do it in the context of a practice towards unifying mind, body, spirit, etc., how can we say that it is not a yoga handstand? There would seem less a concern of the minutia of shoulder position than there is in competitive gymnastics, where an athlete is given a score based upon his ability to move into and maintain his (or her) body into specified position that has been previously defined. There are no scores in yoga, nor is there any hardline orthodoxy. Viewed in retrospect, it is apparent that both practices have changed over time, that they evolve, and continue to do so, perhaps even more rapidly with people learning from different arts for myriad purposes, in a manner that could not have been possible decades or centuries ago, as the ability to learn and communicate, expose and contrast has taken a new course with internet and other means of information sharing.

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