We share three go-to asanas to activate your shoulders and get them ready for your first handstand.

Inversions change the body’s centre of gravity, because while hips and legs are designed to carry the upper body’s weight, the arms and shoulders are not built to carry the heaviness of the lower body. However, there’s nothing quite like mastering your first inversion: for those first few moments you are upside-down, all the hours of practice and prep work you put in to get there feel worth it!

And inversions give us new perspective. Imagine how our lives – and our world – would change if we positioned our heart above our head more often.

Level one – Kumbhakasana (Plank pose)

Part of the classical sun salutation series, and typically a transition pose, plank is ideal for the
early stages of strengthening the upper body, without too much strain.

man performing Kumbhakasana plank

1. Lie on your belly, with hands under shoulders, fingers spread and middle fingers pointing directly forward.
2. Keeping elbows tucked into ribs, inhale and push up onto your hands and knees. (Important: Engage your core as you lift and lead up with the hips, rather than shoulders; this builds core strength,
which is required to master inversions.) The shoulders should feel spread out and supported, with no sagging through the chest or elbows.
3. Inhale and lift your knees so you are in the full pose, with knees, thighs, belly and chest lifted and strong. Hold for five to 10 slow breaths before flowing into Downward Facing Dog, lifting hips to ceiling and planting heels to floor.

Level two – Chaturanga Dandasana (Low plank)

Low plank on the forearms really challenges the upper body, and also engages the chest and core. Take care to keep the neck relaxed and free from tension.

woman undertaking Chaturanga Dandasana plank

1. Lie on your belly, elbows under shoulders with fingers spread, and forearms perfectly parallel.
2. Inhale, roll your toes, engage your core and lift up until your whole body is in line, from
shoulders to heels. Ensure you are not sagging down through the chest and keep knees lifted.
3. Hold for five slow breaths, before lowering back down to the mat and into Sphinx pose.

Level three – Makarasana (Dolphin pose)

Here you are prepping the arms and shoulders to support your body weight, while also starting to move upwards.

woman undertaking Makarasana (Dolphin pose)

1. Lie on your belly, elbows under shoulders with fingers spread, and forearms perfectly parallel.
2. Inhale, roll your toes, engage your core, and lift your hips up into a Downward Dog shape with the rest of your body.
3. Hold pose for up to 10 breaths – increase the challenge by slowly moving your chin down to hover above the mat between your hands, then moving back up into the pose.

Work on these exercises and you will strengthen your shoulders over the weeks to come.

And if you’d like to know about another way to strengthen your shoulders, you can read more here.