The most difficult aspect to learn for any aspiring hand balancer is balancing on the hands.
Perhaps a scientific and anatomic understanding of what is happening here will help. But don’t worry I am not going to be launching into any mathematical formulas or anything.
Balancing on your hands is a skill. Actually balancing in any manner is a skill. You probably can’t remember it, but when you were very young it took you lots of practice to learn to stand on your feet. Even then you would fall down time after time until you could feel balanced and stand without any trouble.
Take a look at your hand right next to your foot. Your foot is longer but only by a few inches at most. There is another difference. If you look at your heel while you are standing you may notice that it is behind your ankle. Even though this makes up a small portion of the foot it really helps in keeping you upright.
Not having a heel to you hand, meaning part of the hand going past the underside of your forearm means that pressure, for the most part can only be applied by the fingers. This is why it is essential that you keep your balance toward the fingers and not at the base of your palm.
Overbalancing can usually be saved by digging the fingers into the ground. Underbalancing is saved by letting up on the fingers.
The fingers of your hand however can spread out wide giving you a larger base than your feet. This is why you will seldom have problems falling to your sides. Once you move on to the one hand handstand or other advanced moves than you need to worry about this.
There is another detail worth mentioning. Roughly 70% of your weight is in your lower body. This means from the hips to the toes.
When you stand on your feet your center of gravity is lower to the ground than when you are on your hands. In a handstand the majority of your weight is high up in the air.
The handstand is much harder than standing on your feet because you have a smaller base of support and your center of gravity is higher.
Add to this fact that you weigh much more and are at least two times as tall as when you learned to walk with your legs and you can understand just why this can be difficult to learn.
Here is another point to wrap your mind around.
If you have ever balanced a long straight object on the palm of your hand then you know that the secret is to pay attention to the very top of the object. This is because when you notice a movement at the top it can easily be corrected by shifting your hand.
If you watched the bottom of the object where it meets your hand, by the time it had moved noticeably you would be unable to recover a balanced position because the top would be way out of line.
Unfortunately, at least when it comes to doing a handstand, your body is not one solid object. Every single joint you have can move and your spine has nearly endless deviations. This means that when you are in a handstand if your leg moves too far one way or another then your center of balance and gravity may move outside the capabilities of your hands or arms to bring it back into balance.
Your body must be kept as one solid object in order to simulate the one solid object feel. This is why you need to stay tight with everything flexed and not relaxed at least in the beginning.
When you can maintain this position you want to keep your attention at the furthest point from your hands, i.e. your toes. If you keep your body tight then any shift in your hands to balance will translate straight to your toes. So if you are overbalancing you apply extra pressure with your hands and this will move your feet back toward your center of gravity.
If your body was not kept tight then this transfer would not happen. You could apply all the pressure and your feet could continue toward overbalancing eventually bringing you to your feet.
It is called hand balancing for a reason. The balance is maintained predominately by your hands. There are other methods of saving you balance like shoulder weaving and bending your arms, which Bob Jones talks about at length in The True Art and Science of Hand Balancing, but these are advanced techniques to save balances that you can not save with your hands alone. These methods are sometimes referred to as the “strongman’s cheat” and in any case you should not rely on them to balance.
How can you use all this to help you balance? Understand that your body, with its high center of gravity, will act like a lever against your small base. The stronger wrist and fingers you have the better off your are but you must be able to keep your body tight at the same time.
If you can keep your body rigid then just keep your mind on your toes. Know where your center of balance is. Once you can ‘feel’ where this center is than balancing becomes much easier. If you find yourself falling toward under balancing all you have to do is manipulate your hand pressure to bring your center back.
Recognize that balancing will take practice. You didn’t learn to use your legs in one day, neither will you master the handstand in as much time.
Learning how to kick up into a handstand properly each and every time is a big secret. This will ensure you don’t have to work too hard to get into a balanced position. But that is another topic all together.
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