Looking for new ways to exercise at home? Handstand practices could be just the thing, especially if you work from home.
Moving around during the day is a proven way to help you stop feeling sluggish but it can be difficult to fit exercise into your working day. When I started trying to move more regularly while working from home, I used this time to practice handstands. I noticed that doing so was not only relaxing but seemed to help me concentrate better than other forms of movement like stretching or walking did.
So can being upside down really help you concentrate? It has been shown to have other health benefits, as a 2012 study by the Regional Neurosciences Centre in Newcastle found that inversion therapy – a technique in which you are suspended upside down – made people struggling with sciatica and back pain 70.5% less likely to need a back operation in the long term.
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Inversion therapy has also been linked to fewer joint-related injuries, less back muscle pain and faster healing from injuries.
While there is little research on the mental benefits of being upside down, studies have shown that gymnastics in general can improve mental toughness as well as people’s ability to manage stress. Davide Buzzi, co-director of OverGravity Gymnastics and an adult gymnastics coach, explains that he considers upside down elements of gymnastics to be a form of meditation. “It requires presence, attention, concentration but also relaxation in order to reach stillness,” he says. “Steady breathing is an essential aspect of balancing when upside down.”
Buzzi explains that the balance required for exercises like handstands connects your mental state to your body in a way that could help you concentrate on other activities better too. Being upside down also increases your blood circulation to your upper body and head.
For me, practicing handstands and other inverted exercises while working from home is an amazing way to shift my focus and refresh my mind, helping me to shake off any stress I might be dealing with. Plus, it means I completely stretch out my back and undo some of the damage being hunched over my desk all day might have done.
To get started with inverted exercises, David Rutherfoord, a handstand coach, recommends doing wall walk ups before you practice handstands. “Stand facing away from the wall and bend over so you can walk your legs up the wall,” he explains. “Your chest should be facing the wall and you should walk as high as you feel comfortable.”
If you’re feeling intimidated by the concept of being upside down on a wall, Buzzi recommends starting by placing your feet on an elevated surface like a bed, sofa or a chair and placing your hands on the floor, shoulder distance apart. “Keep your fingers open and look between your hands,” he advises.
Start off trying to hold these movements for 30 seconds and build up to holding for three minutes. As a beginner, you should avoid holding inverted exercises for much longer than this as it could lead to dizziness and muscle strain.
Simple yoga movements such as downward dog and uttanasana (forward fold) also allow you to experience some of the benefits of being upside down and you can easily do them beside your desk.
You can find full tutorials on how to do some of these exercises and more on the Strong Women Training Club.
Images: Getty, Alice Porter
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