Bakasana To Handstand: What Muscles Are Used to Press Up?

Transcript of: Bakasana to handstand: What muscles are used to press up?

Hey everybody! I’m on the road.  I’m in Manila and I thought I would answer one of the questions of the month that got submitted.  Of course, you can go to and submit your own question of the month and I’ll do my best to answer it as quickly as possible.

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The Question:

So this month’s question comes from Jessica Payne and she asked a very simple question, well, she asked a complex question, but, it’s very simply written.  What are the exact muscles you are engaging to do a crow or bakasana press to handstand?

The Answer:

So, it seems like a simple movement. She’s asking a very simple question. The truth is, there’s a long list of muscles that we could go through, but I get the feeling I know what she’s after.

If we start from the bottom, of course, wrist flexors are going to be flexing to keep the fingers pressing into the floor and all that kind of stuff. The deltoids are active in stabilizing the shoulder joint.  But, the literal movement to go up, in my mind, happens in two really key places.  The first is the shoulder joint, or I should say, the shoulder as a whole moves into, beyond 90 degrees at the shoulder joint which means, as you press up, your arm is basically doing this: [see video] except it’s stuck to the floor and your body is doing it.

So at this part of your body, you’re doing upward rotation of the scapula.  Now, with your arms in that position, one of the strongest upward rotators is the serratus anterior.  I talk about this a lot.  It’s in the book, Functional Anatomy of Yoga.  It’s one of the key stabilizers as well as functional movers.  There’s a lot of other really good stuff going on with serratus.  There are plenty of articles on the website about it. You may also want to read So, You Wanna Do A Handstand.

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So serratus is going to be the part that starts to move the torso into upward rotation.  And then the next part is then stabilizing your center of gravity, which means the knees are in. Psoas is highly engaged as you’re doing that. And the movement part that happens in the back and to the pelvis, is going to be the erector spinae group of muscles to help tilt the pelvis, because that pelvis is lifting. Right, as the knees move out, to go up into a handstand the pelvis is rotating to bring the femurs out and the knees up and all that kind of stuff, and then of course eventually the legs are going up.

So, I’ll recap that.  The arm part, shoulder girdle, serratus, upwardly rotating the shoulder joint, but because we’re upside down what we’re really doing is rotating the torso up.  There’s psoas stabilizing the center of gravity and then the erector spinae group of muscles helping to rotate the pelvis.  They’re not alone in that, but they’re all trying to rotate the pelvis so the knees come up and then eventually you end up in a handstand. That’s how you get from bakasana to handstand.

All right, go ahead and submit another question.  I’ll answer it when I can.

Take care, everybody!