September 11, 2013

Do This Practice & Nail the Handstand. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

For many yogis and yoginis, handstand and forearm balances are the pinnacle of difficulty. Some people—myself included—are simply scared to turn their worlds upside down. 

But like most things worth achieving, handstand takes practice and patience.

“First month paining, second month tired, third month flying.” ~ Sharath Jois

And the best way to achieve something—particularly in yoga—is to practice it. Little by little, we gain strength and purpose. I had been going to yoga classes for a few years and practicing handstand once or twice at the very end of class. It simply was not enough to make me build up the strength in my core, arms, shoulders and back. I wanted a more advanced class that made me do the posture many times.

I found a video on YouTube by Yogi Nora, a goofy and gorgeous yogi who has a style similar to my own. She mixes Vinyasa Flow rhythm with Ashtanga movements for an athletic and difficult practice. She advocates for a deeper practice—a more physical approach to yoga.

Her attitude: If a posture isn’t stretching you, press into it deeper. Challenge yourself. Practice…a lot. Elongate whenever possible. Do every sequence three times, making each one harder as you go. And most importantly to me, do handstands and forearm balances before and after every  vinyasa. Take ownership of the practice you are currently doing in order to create a pathway to the practice you want to be doing.

This yogi is as silly as she is beautiful, sculpted and skilled. She has a California twang to her talk, and she uses funny Nora-isms throughout the entire class, some of which made me laugh out loud. It’s always nice when yoga teachers—especially the awesome ones—make you laugh in the middle of a really hard practice. But she reeks of discipline and perseverance.

This YouTube class by Yogi Nora is what finally made me practice my handstand enough to get it. Warning: If you are not confident in your handstand or forearm balance abilities, do the class next to a wall at first. You have to have a solid foundation in yoga to even attempt this practice.


If this class is too hard, Yogi Nora has several other Beginner or Intermediate classes, also found on YouTube.

I came out of this class with dead arms and a happy mind. I knew that I had tried my hardest for the entire 1:13:13 class… every moment was important in the practice. I nailed postures (that I had never been able to do in sequence!) and exited them gracefully.

I think that you will be able to do the same if you practice and dedicate your mind, body, and soul to it.

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Ed: Sara Crolick


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JWL Dec 16, 2013 9:03am

I see all 8 limbs happening in her effort/non-effort. If you don't call that a full absorption what is? Super clear, super calm and super kind no matter what pose or no pose. This is a fruit of a longtime practice. She is by no mean asking people to stretch their limit. Enjoy it for what it is – an inspiration.

Jes Nov 16, 2013 9:09pm

Thank you for this post! She has a beautiful grace to her practice.

karlsaliter Sep 18, 2013 1:10pm

Thanks Jenna, good find. Hadn't heard of her.

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Jenna Penielle Lyons

Jenna Penielle Lyons was born in Portales, New Mexico among sage and sand. Raised in Pocatello, Idaho among the black rock and juniper, she grew up wandering in cowboy boots, running, riding bikes, skiing, climbing, painting, and studying classical ballet. She is a scholar of English Literature, a poet, painter, photographer, musician, and outdoorswoman. She winters in Missoula and spends the summer working for Snake River Hotshots. She is a lover of mountain bluebirds & elephants, tea & good coffee, Carl Jung, Salvador Dali, skiing, climbing in the desert, yoga, harp music, and sagebrush. Her favorite foods are borscht and any combination of chocolate and cayenne pepper. Follow her adventures at The Lyon’s Roar.