07 March 2015

Stand On Your Hands, Part the First (of Two Parts)

THAT IS NOT ME IN THE VIDEO. That is Ido Portal. 

Legal disclaimer: Always consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program or trying something new;  any exercise you do at your own risk and if you get hurt being a dumbo then that's your fault. Don't be a dumbo.

Long time readers know that I like to exercise. (It gets me out of the house.) Friend Bennycakes asked if I would throw some weights words around and explain why inversions in general, and handstands in particular, are Good for You (that is Part the First), and also elaborate on the benefits as they relate to specific activities, such as crossfit skillz (to be covered in Part the Second).

The temptation to create a 'top 10 reasons handstands are RAD2TEHMAX' listicle is strong but this isn't buzzfeed so we will resist the urge.

We Were Inverted

There are many claims about the mental and physical benefits of inversions. Let's back up: an inversion is when your heart is higher than your head. Some claims are specious but if we apply common sense we can discern that you are getting some or all of the following benefits:
  • Spinal decompression (headstands excepted, obvs)
  • Shaking up the flow of your lymphatic system, which helps keep you healthy
  • Strengthening and toning whatever parts you are using to hold yourself up (shoulders and arms in a handstand)
  • Encouraging your arterial system to work harder, and giving your heart and venous system a brief respite
  • Shaking up the flow of your digestive system, encouraging proper digestion
  • Strengthening your core
  • Improving your balance
  • Learning how to be comfortable upside down (underrated skill, btw)
These are good things!

Will a 10 second handstand hold per day give you all these things? Probably not! So why bother?

Handstands are a Force for Good

You know who likes handstands? Kids! (Also: dogs! Though they may take the opportunity to get all up in your face. That's a benefit in my book. YMMV) Point is: handstands are fun! You can reap the strength and balance benefits of an inversion even in relatively short handstand holds. How great is that? I think it is great.

Have you ever seen a bunch of people trying to learn a handstand? Does it look like they are having a bad time? No, because something about being upside down and falling over and then getting up again is simultaneously humbling and empowering. Try it and you'll see.

Why don't more people practice handstands? Because they are afraid. Afraid of getting hurt (valid reason), afraid of falling (also valid), afraid of looking silly (not valid). Nothing wrong with that. Fear can be healthy - it keeps us from putting ourselves at risk unnecessarily. But sometimes it keeps us from reaching our full potential (Life Lesson alert!).

Borrowing from Ido Portal: Whatever your body does, it will get good at. Sit and become good at sitting. Move and become good at moving. Stand on your hands and become good at balancing. The balance skill will spread to many other parts of your athletic life. I will cover a few of those in Part II. 

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