Turn upside down, look again: a philosophy of handstands.

How many times do you flip upside down and look at the world from a different perspective?

Literally – how often do you turn upside down?

Short of taking a thrill ride at an adventure-park, or bending over to pick up the trash, most people rarely turn upside down on a regular basis. The closest we might get to a 180-degree turn is propping our feet up on the coffee table or when we lie down in bed at night to go do sleep.

I think handstands should be done every day.

Handstands–that delicious reversal of direction whereby your head is close to the ground and your feet go flying in the air–are marvelous.  They are also very important. Here are ten untested reasons why handstands are brilliant – and why you should take the time to turn upside down once or twice today.

In work, in life, and in play: sometimes you just have to turn upside-down.

Reason #1. They are fun. This alone is the probably greatest reason for doing anything, ever. Follow your fun. Do something fun once a day, at least. I love handstands. They are spectacularly awesome. I try to do them everyday.

Reason #2. Turning upside down lets you look at the world from a new perspective. We always challenge each other to think outside the box, to be creative and get a fresh perspective, and to craft new opinions by putting existing ideas together in unusual ways. At my job as a designer, we spent a lot of time critically analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve the product by thinking about things in a new way.  This is a simple way to do something right away that lets you see the world in a new way.

Reason #3. It’s good for blood flow and breathing. Imagine your feet, suffering from all of that gravity working against you. How many times do you get off your feet? When you do a handstand, you switch gravity in your body.  You turn everything in your body upside-down, putting pressure on the opposing side of your organs and lungs. The breath deep in your lungs expands and releases air better. Anything trapped down in the bottom of those lungs (imagine some of that dirty, dank, filthy city air trapped in your lungs…) can fall down and shake it’s way out of your lung space.

Reason #4.  It helps with all the other circulation systems. Your lymphatic system is probably cheering you on.  While your blood circulation deliveries all of those marvelous nutrients to the reaches of your body, your lymphatic system (the waste system) picks up all of the debris and garbage and filters it out of your muscles and into the different excretion systems of the body. The lymphatic system is much like the circulation system–just in reverse. And turning upside down promotes both blood flow, as well as lymphatic flow.

While we’re on the topic of biology, let’s talk about all those squishy organs stacked in your midsection. Your gut is a big pile of cool organs: your liver, pancreas, stomach, intestines, and other stuff, all packed inside you like sardines in a can. Your stomach mainly rests on top of those organs, which in turn sit on top of your  intestines. Ever seen a diagram of the human body? Well, when you flip upside down, you reverse all the pressures on your insides. (Take that, stomach!)

Image from life, stories & memories.

Reason #5. It makes you happier. Screw the oxygen bank–the best way to get a rush of happiness is to deliver a massive increase in blood flow to the head.  Oxygen = euphoria.

Reason #6. It makes you giggle. You play when you do handstands. It’s not like running or swimming, which are perhaps more arduous, linear tasks that feel like you’re working to deliver forward motion for a continuous amount of time.  Handstands you can just do. And you can do them almost anywhere. (Trick: If you want to do a handstand, but you’re nervous about it – find a place against a wall to do them. )

Reason #7. It’s like exercise, but it’s not. It’s wayyy more fun. Although after trying to do about 10-15 handstands, you’ll probably be very tired. There are a lot of ways to be healthier, and some of them can be simple and fun.

In fact, you can do many different varieties of handstands.  There are headstands, elbow and forearm stands, one-handed handstands, splits, and handstands against the wall.

Image from http://www.yogachrissy.com

Reason #8.  It reveals how completely uncoordinated (or coordinated) we are. Sometimes, coordination is nearly impossible. And you fall. And it’s okay. Handstands are somewhat tricky, and it you might need a spotter or a wall to help you out.  But the fun fact about being uncoordinated? It makes you giggle (so refer back to #6). And you’ve got to learn by doing. Thinking about it won’t get you anywhere.

Reason #9. You get to meet people along the way. In San Francisco a few weeks ago, my flight was delayed for two hours.  Antsy and with nowhere to go, my brother and I started a handstand competition in the airport, up against one of the long walls in the alleyway. Before we knew it, we had several other people lined up for the count – including a precocious 6 year old who out-handstand-ed all of us (and proceeded to do a few break-dancing tricks, too). Handstands reveal your inner play and gives you something fun to do while waiting.

Reason #10. You don’t need anything but yourself to do it. You can do them anywhere. Like I said, handstands are awesome.

So, where are you right now? Do a handstand in your office. I dare you to. Too afraid? Go outside (brr, winter cold!) and try one in the snow or the chilly wind. Laugh a little bit. Take yourself less seriously. It’s a day for fun. And I guarantee you’ll work just as hard even while also doing handstands once in a while.

13 Responses to Turn upside down, look again: a philosophy of handstands.

  1. kalyan says:

    Really interesting article ! handstands could be this much fun and useful never gave so much though to it ! will try it first thing in the morning :)

  2. Chris says:

    Just did a handstand. It was great.

  3. Tara says:

    I agree 110% :-) I do them at work when I’m bored or getting tired.

    Have you ever tried doing them in an elevator while it’s moving? It’s a blast! Try it ;-)

  4. I love this, especially because of #9.

    Handstands have been adopting by many groups, especially CrossFitters who like to do handstands in various places around the world and take pictures of themselves doing it (I, too, have blogged about this: http://lamiki.com/2010/11/handstands/). Totally love flipping upside down next to some monument and showing my skills.

    Man, Sarah, you know how to rock a blog post!

  5. Saif says:

    I got you from Slideshare. Really become a fun of you and your website. I like your posts. Keep it up, dear!

  6. Ashley says:

    My son and I do this. I’m happy to read about it. What a special post!

  7. Wow, I used to do handstands all the time when I was young – yet another one of those things we lose as we get older. I’ll be trying it again very soon.

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  12. Quite true on the fresh perspective!

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