In my career as a professional acrobat I practiced handstands and became pretty good at certain positions. I remember a time when holding a simple handstand was so easy, I just popped up into one wherever I could. Travel photos often included some version of a handstand just to mark my passing. As time passed, I ended up flying through the air and being caught by my hands an awful lot and my shoulder adapted. They became stronger and less flexible. I also sustained some injuries and was definitely guilty of overwork. I ended up with a very permanent case of raging tendonitis in my left shoulder. Yes, that is the medical term. I am obviously to blame for the loss of flexibility as it is possible to gain strength and maintain flexibility and I suppose proper physical therapy would have helped me recover from my injuries more completely.
In any case, proper alignment has become more challenging for me over the years and I eventually stopped practicing handstands all together. I think I went a year without doing one. I couldn’t even entertain the idea. Until I saw a hooper in a handstand with a hoop expertly spinning around her foot. That spark was all it took to get my motivation back, and I am now rebuilding strength and flexibility as I convince my tendonitis to tone it down a notch. Or hopefully two.
But I didn’t wait for all that to happen before I just jumped in a gave it a try. I figured 20 years of experience should hold me in good stead. Needless to say it was a complete failure. I wasn’t surprised that the hoop flew off my foot and across the room narrowly missing the orchid I kept on the kitchen counter. I was shocked at how bad my handstand was. Catastrophic. Aside from the intense pain due to the tendonitis, my lack of flexibility made it much harder than I remembered to maintain alignment, well honestly even get into proper alignment in the first place and I no longer had those well honed balancing skills. I corrected far too late and far too little, or far too much. I was bright red and huffing and puffing after a few attempts. To be brutally honest, I sat down and cried. My daughter ran over thinking I had hurt myself and I had to check myself because I almost I blurted out, “No honey, I just realized I am old!”
Once I managed to put aside my disappointment that I am, in fact, not superhuman along with my guilt about having been lazy coupled with my fear that it was too late and that I would never get it back, I started training. These negative feelings are not gone, but I have managed to put them in perspective and whenever I start to feel too discouraged I throw on some music and dance. Just for me. Read my post, Do you dare move without your hoop? to learn more about letting your body free to tell you its story.
My motto for handstands is, “little steps and lots of fun”, because otherwise it is just not going to happen. This is where the hoop comes in. Trying to keep that plastic circle spinning around my foot while also trying to maintain balance and alignment is far more fun! Of course, I do need to practice handstands without the hoop, and I do so as a warm up, looking forward to the hoop craziness that is soon to follow. I also put away all my potted plants and breakables now!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my journey with you along with my secrets to solid handstands. Luckily I have a deep understanding of this trick and many years of experience to fall back on, and so I know where to start.
Sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss future posts that are in the works, such as:
Handstand warms ups
How to hold a solid handstand
6 essential foot hooping warmups
Essential foot hooping stretches
Secrets to building handstand core strength
Hooping in a headstand
Proper handstand alignement
My name is Laura Smith and I am a professional acrobat.