“No, no, no, no, You’re gonna die, I’m telling you, you’re gonna die. You will break your neck, you will crash into your neighbor—or worse make a complete fool of yourself!”
“Dude, I want to learn this thing, other people pull this off, so I should be able to do so, too. Come on, let’s do this.”
“No, if you don’t break your neck you will break your back, perhaps a leg, or two, and no one in the world will ever talk to you again, because you will look stupid.”
“Come on, we can do this. Let’s do this. It looks so fun.”
Handstand Mind Games
The mind is a world champion when it comes to coming up with excuses when you venture into unfamiliar territory—also known as doing something you’ve not done before.
It’s the same battle over and over, one side of us so wants to crush our current limits to infinity and beyond, learn new things, and test the edges of our potential.
The other side is terrified of anything it doesn’t know, and this part of our brain hasn’t seen daylight for centuries, so is still convinced we live in the stone age. In stoneage days, unfamiliar territory and new experiences were indeed to be pursued with caution as it was likely to be a lion, tiger, or some other crazy monster you’d not yet come across.
A Little Bit of Useful Science about Fear
Fear is our limbic system, in particular our lovely amygdala, that super old part of our brain, that has now much been left in the shadow in favor for our prefrontal cortex, the clever guy. However the amygdala is driven by emotions, and emotions will always be the main driver for our actions, so disregarding this part of our brain is a bit stupid if you want to set yourself up for success.
You must keep in mind that fear occurs when the following circumstances are present:
- You are about to do something you’ve not done before.
- You are about to venture into the unknown.
- You are about to do something that you don’t have full control over, yet.
- It’s unfamiliar territory, and so it’s interpreted as dangerous.
When something is new, the amygdala goes “there might be lions around here, better run away asap,” which is why you have some crazy emotions getting in the way for your handstand practice.
Now, we won’t be eaten by a lion when trying to balance on our hands, but like with anything new and unexplored the brain’s going to tell you to stop and activate a lot of survival mechanisms to “help you out“—making you go halfway in for what you want to achieve and learn, stops you from going all in, even if you know exactly what to do.
5 Simple Tricks To Conquer Your Handstand Fear
With the knowledge of the above, it’s easy. Since the mind freaks out because something is new and unfamiliar, our job then becomes to make this handstand game an explored playground.
The more familiar it feels, the more it will calm the mind down, preventing it from going into catastrophe mode, leaving you completely paralyzed. Then you will no longer be at the border of a nervous breakdown and you can focus on the task at hand.
- Visualize it. The mind can’t distinguish between a thought and real experience if you can make this thought vivid enough. You do this by imagining in as much detail as possible how to do your handstand, everything from how you put your hands on the floor to the feeling of being upside down, or how you imagine it to be.
- Watch other people do it over and over. Real life, YouTube, Instagram—train your mind to see it as “normal.”
- Start with where you are today. Start small. Start with the smallest possible step. This is probably the most important step.
- See the small wins along the way. This will help you build confidence in your abilities.
- Challenge yourself in balance with your current skill level. Make the challenges challenging enough that you can focus on them, yet not too challenging or too easy. This will help your mind stay focused instead of thinking about being scared.
How to Practice and Challenge Fear In Action
The way I started my life upside down was with learning my headstand, then forearm stands, before eventually nailing my handstand. I’ve found this method to be useful for many. As a principle, I would recommend starting with the progression you find the least scary.
Starting with a headstand can be good because it’s easier to balance skill-wise. Then your focus will be on mastering the fear of seeing the world upside down. You must focus on one thing at the time. Then practice that component over and over, until it’s on autopilot.
Here’s a real-world example:
- I’m going to put my hands down on the floor 10 times and my focus is hand placement. That’s my one goal for that session—how I put my hands on the floor while notice how that feels.
- The next 10 tries, I will focus on looking in between my hands and think hips on top of head. And that’s my only two points of focus, for those 10 times I try to go up.
- Then the next 10 times I try to connect these dots: hands, hips, and where I look.
And so the journey continues.
Repetition, repetition, repetition, day in day out. Not tons, just 5 minutes of practice with an occasional day or two off.
Trust the Process
Trust the process, be patient, know that you will get frustrated, and remember that’s a good thing. Keep going anyway. The moments you feel most stuck, those are the moments you work the hardest, and you grow the most although you can’t see it.
At one point you might get so pissed off and go “I’ve had enough,“ and then you suddenly, finally break through. Perhaps you fall to the other side and you realize it wasn’t as dangerous as you thought.
Perhaps you get a little bruise, a small price for realizing that you can take a lot more than you thought, on top of a stronger sense of confidence from breaking new limits. Plus, you’ve also just learned how to fall out of a handstand.
Thoughts On The Wall
You might start with the wall if you are completely new. Simply to train your body to turn the right muscles on when you go upside down, but from there get away from the wall as soon as you can. Only use it once in a while as a check-in.
The mind likes to rely on the wall too much and ultimately it’s not going to help you in the long run. It’s fake safety, you start depending on something outside of yourself. The goal here is to start trusting yourself that you can figure this out.
The Fear of Crashing Into the Floor
You won’t learn anything until you practice it, so you need to fall to learn how to fall. Trust me on this—here’s where your survival instincts will make very good use of themselves. We have a survival mechanism installed in our brains that is capable of the craziest things to keep us safe. It will keep you safe. Plus you’re almost on the floor already.
When you get scared, that’s a good sign. It means you are going beyond your status quo, and that growth is waiting for you when you lean into it and go beyond.
- Trust the process.
- Above all, play with it.
- Feel the fear and move with it.
- Be curious about it.
- Explore it.
- Give yourself some solid credit along the way.
- Put your fear in a different light.
What’s the smallest step you can take to close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be?
You might also like:
- Get Ready For Handstands: Hand Position And Balance
- Develop Your Handstand: The Importance Of Progression
- My 4-Week Program For Achieving Handstand Happiness