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A handstand is the act of holding the body upside down balancing on the hands. The body is held straight with arms and legs fully extended. The hands are placed about shoulder-width apart. A handstand performer must have balance and upper body strength.
Handstands are used in many activities, including acro dance, acrobatics, cheerleading and gymnastics. Some type of handstand is performed on all gymnastic equipment. Many tumbling skills pass through a handstand position as part of the action. Breakdancers use handstands in freezes and kicks. Sometimes a handstand is used as a starting position for diving. In games or contests, swimmers will sometimes do underwater handstands on pool bottoms with legs and feet extended above the water.
Handstands are known by various other names. In yoga, the handstand is known as Adho Mukha Vrksasana (pronounced AHD-hoh MOOK-hah vrik-SHAH-sah-nah) translating to Downward-facing Tree Pose, and in capoeira it is named bananeira.
There are two basic handstands used in modern gymnastics: curved-back and straight-back. Straight-back style is used when straight body lines are wanted and possible. In many cases the curved-back style is better as it has much better control over balance. Balance is kept by shifting body weight towards the fingers or the heel of the hand.
All basic handstands have these features:
- Straight arms with hands placed on the ground about shoulder-width apart.
- Straight legs, held together.
- Pointed toes so as to continue the lines of the legs.
Straight-back handstands have these characteristics:
- Tucked head (face pointed forward) as if standing upright.
- Straight spine, with hips pushed forward. If performed while lying flat, this would cause the small of the back to contact ground.
Common handstand variations include:
- Straight legs held in a side or front split.
- Stag split, in which legs are front split with bent knees.
- Back very arched, with bent knees and toes touching the back of the head.
- Hollowback, with the back bent so that legs go further forward than the head.
- One-handed, in which only one hand contacts the ground.
- Handstand pushups, in which one raises and lowers the body while standing inverted on the hands.
- Budilovsky, Joan; Adamson, Eve (2000). The complete idiot's guide to yoga (2 ed.). Penguin. p. 179. . http://books.google.com/books?id=b5pE8-Oyly0C. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- "Different Styles of Handstands". http://www.lostartofhandbalancing.com/articles/different-styles-of-handstands. Retrieved 2010-09-29.