Handstand Exploding Head Syndrome

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Watermelon Smash

It’s amazing how people let fear get in the way of hitting lifelong goals.  So many people let fear take control when they try to learn the handstand.

At least once a week, someone sends me an email asking for advice because handstands make them feel like their head is going to explode:

“As soon as I get close to vertical, my head felt like it was going to explode.”

“I get redness in my face for quite a while after handstands.”

“My eyes feel like they are about to burst!”

“I don’t mind holding the handstand, but the pressure on my head is unbearable!”

I get emails like this so frequently that I started calling it Exploding Head Syndrome.  Recently, I received an email from someone who actually removed the handstand from their workouts all together because of Exploding Head Syndrome!!

Exploding Head Syndrome Email

Sure, some people don’t have this problem at all, but many people DO.  Just because you are the only one you know who has this problem doesn’t make you any less capable to perform the handstand.

But how many people experience this and don’t reach out to me for help?  How many people feel the pain, and just figure it’s easier to put the handstand aside?

How many people try their first wall handstand, experience Exploding Head Syndrome, and give up?

I haven’t pin pointed the percentage of people who suffer from this problem and never try to fix it.  But I do know how many people have taken the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, and I know that people who complete the challenge always see progress towards their first handstand.  Yet, so many people don’t finish the challenge. They fall off the wagon somewhere — and I bet Exploding Head Syndrome is to blame in many of those cases.

If you experience this problem and you stop training, you are just letting fear get the best of you  :

Fear that you may not be ready for the handstand.
Fear that your body is not capable of being inverted.
Fear that continued practice will mean more pain, instead of more reward.
Fear that you will be wasting time on something that you can never perform.

This is unfortunate, because Exploding Head Syndrome is SO COMMON and SO EASY TO OVERCOME

Understanding Exploding Head Syndrome

Lego Stretcher

When you go into a handstand, its like turning a water bottle upside-down.  WHOOSH!  All of the blood in your body rushes to your head, and expands the blood vessels throughout, including those in your brain and eyes.  Imagine filling a water balloon, and how it swells as more water flows into it.  Yup, the same thing is happening in every blood vessel in your entire head.

But…when you get out of bed in the morning, all of the blood rushes to your feet.  WHOOSH!  So why don’t your feet feel like they are going to explode every time you stand up?!

Well, your body is supposed to know how to adjust to the stress of changing blood pressures as you move around.  When the blood rushes to your feet, your blood vessels sense the change in pressure, and they relax or stiffen based on the blood pressure that is ideal for your feet.  Since you usually stand upright, your blood vessels are well trained to adjust for the sudden rush of blood, and you don’t even notice a difference.

You’re not used to standing on your hands, though…so once you get inverted, the blood rushes to your head and your body literally doesn’t know how to cope!  The entire system that deals with blood pressure in the head is simply not trained for that situation.

If you want to overcome Exploding Head Syndrome, you need to gradually train your body to deal with the increased pressure.

But before going any further, there is a minority of new hand balancers where Exploding Head Syndrome may indicate a medical problem such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure, infection or even something more sinister…

For example, if you have problems with your blood pressure then your body is generally not coping well to changes in your circulation.  Your body may not be able to adjust to blood rushing to your head, no matter what.

Now, I don’t run into many people like this…in fact, the number of people I have worked with who have had serious medical problems is under 10%.  Most times, Exploding Head Syndrome is pretty benign…

But if you do suffer from Exploding Head Syndrome, you should probably check with your doctor first before continuing your handstand training.  If you do have a medical problem, it can lead to a bunch of horrible symptoms including headaches and burst capillaries in the eyes, among other things.

A quick visit to the doctor, where you get cleared for handstand training can save you a lot of time, frustration and headaches (literally!).  And, in some rare cases, it may also uncover something that needs medical attention.  And once you get that sorted out, you can start working on overcoming Exploding Head Syndrome.

Overcoming Exploding Head Syndrome

Watermelon Bandage

If you made it this far, then you checked that you’re cleared to do handstands, right?  So, you don’t need to worry about medical complications? Great!  You’re ready to work past this problem.

Good news! It usually only takes 7-14 days to eliminate Exploding Head Syndrome.

Remember to Breathe

The first thing you need to do is remember to breathe.  I know, I know, it sounds stupid…but it’s normal to hold your breath when you are straining yourself.  When you are really trying to hold yourself up, you tend to tighten the muscles in your trunk and hold your breath.  This is called the Valsalva maneuver  and is actually really useful when you are trying to do something like push your car down the road, or deadlift a tree.

We evolved to perform the Valsalva maneuver instinctively because it locks the truck in place, stabilizes the Lumbar spine and provides stability to the shoulder girdle.  This is great in most situations, but it works against you when you are learning to handstand.

For starters, the Valsalva maneuver temporarily increases your heart rate, so more blood is being pumped out of your heart and into your head…right to the last place you want it.  As if that weren’t bad enough, holding your breath increases the pressure in your trunk, which makes it harder for blood to leave your head.

In short, you need to force yourself to breathe steadily!  When you are first getting over the Exploding Head Syndrome, you can use a technique to make sure you are breathing.  You can count out loud.  You can recite your alphabet.  These techniques force you to pay attention to your breathing.

I can hear you cry out, “Wait!  Those guys in Cirque don’t seem to be paying so much attention to their breathing!” and you’re right.  As your handstands improve, you will be able to breathe normally, but you need to get over this initial hump first.

Gradually Increase the Pressure

If controlling your breathing doesn’t provide the relief you need, then you need to build up to the increased pressure slowwwwllly…

If you are taking the 28-Day Handstand Challenge (or using my book), the technique for overcoming Exploding Head Syndrome slips right into your daily 5-minute routine (Not taking the challenge? Working on your handstand?  You may want to sign up to get all of my free handstand material.)


Sign up for free updates and receive the 28-Day Handstand Challenge eBook.

Build a handstand commitment to eliminate Exploding Head Syndrome.

Start by going into your best belly-to-wall handstand hold, and get to the point where you start to feel the pressure building up, where you start to feel uncomfortable.  Then, walk your hands a step or two away from the wall, bringing your hips down and reducing the pressure.  You should still be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be unbearable.

In the next session, try to get a little closer.  The next time, get closer.  And the time after that?  Yup, get closer.  Even if it’s just a centimeter each time.  Eventually, the discomfort will subside, and you will be able to tolerate being inverted.

This technique gradually introduces your blood vessels to the stress of increased blood flow to the head.  And, as your body gets used to it, it will learn how to adjust each and every time.

The only caveat here is that you need to be consistent, and train this daily…anything less just won’t cut it.  Luckily, you have the habit-building and commitment-strengthening techniques of the 28-Day Handstand Challenge to help keep you consistent.

A small “problem” with this technique is that it can be frustrating if you are already pretty strong, if your arms are strong enough to hold yourself upside-down near the wall.  You feel that holding wall planks (instead of wall handstands) is too elementary for someone of your strength…but you need to get past that.  The only way to get over this problem is to reprogram your body to be able to do handstands, and this method is the only way to do it.

Now…Do It!

Thumbs Up

You need to be consistent, and you need to just get out and do it.

Just like your normal handstand training, you need to work on this very frequently.  Your body needs a lot of exposure to being inverted.  That is the only way it can adjust to the increased pressure.

This method works in a vast majority of cases, and normally takes between 7-14 days until most of the pain disappears.  Sometimes it takes a bit longer (6 weeks or more) if you are an outlier or have a medical complication…

…but is two weeks (or even 6 weeks) really that long?  After all, you are trying to reprogram a major biological system in your body!  You’re trying to overcome a major obstacle towards an uber-impressive, lifelong goal!  A few weeks is nothing, in the scheme of things.

So just go out and do it.  If you are taking the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, or using my book, then you need to just remember this technique as you go through Challenges #1 and #2.  If you are reading this because you want to hit your first freestanding hold, then you should start the 28-Day Handstand Challenge to build the habit and consistency that are necessary to overcome this obstacle.

Now just get out there and train!

photo source: watermelon smash, stretcher, thumbs-up

Handstands and Beginner’s Yoga

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Yoga Handstand Kick UpPhoto Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/4521764256/

I have trained in a lot of disciplines over the years…

What originally got me hooked was Tae Kwon Do, a martial art that focuses heavily on kicking and lower limb flexibility. It wasn’t until several years later, after falling into parkour and gymnastics training, that I finally started dabbling in Yoga.

In a word, that is unfortunate. I wish that I had found Yoga much earlier in life.

Yoga is an awesome art that definitely helps your physical well-being by promoting flexibility, stability and body control…but Yoga has really shown me that movement provides mental clarity…

…but like any other physical discipline, Yoga can be frustrating.

The more advanced skills in acrobatic yogas, like Ashtanga or Acroyoga, can be particularly difficult. Getting frustrated (or enraged) by yoga kind of defeats the point…doesn’t it?

That’s probably why I get a lot of emails like this from yogis who are taking the 28-Day Handstand Challenge:

“I would like to conquer the handstand in my yoga practice! I need assistance with a freestanding handstand. I can sometimes kick up against the wall but don’t really know how to get balance.”Elaine

“While I’ve done handstand assisted, or against the wall in yoga class before, I’d like to feel more confident doing them at home, and hopefully one day be able to do a freestanding handstand. There are not many options for taking yoga classes in my area, and so I’ve had to practice by myself at home. ” Kara

“It never occurred to me to try a handstand until I started taking yoga classes a couple of years ago. We’ve done handstands against a wall a few times in class for short periods of time. I haven’t attempted the freestanding handstand yet because I don’t want to risk injury.”Robert

After digging a bit deeper, I found out that these are people who want to learn the handstand specifically to achieve advanced yoga poses such as the handstand, handstand press, headstand and elbow balance.

The good news is that yogis usually learn the handstand quickly – and I have personally helped yogis in this position before…for example, there is Lyle…

“It wasn’t until Chris Salvato’s experience, methodologies, and willingness to help me [overcome issues] that I was finally successful.” – Lyle, Acroyoga student

Now, I won’t pretend that I know everything about Yoga. While I love Yoga and have practiced it myself, I am not the most experienced yogi…but there is one thing I do know a ton about – and thats getting adults to balance on their hands.

In the end, a yogi trying to get their first handstand is just like every other adult – which means you need to address two keystones of adult handstand training: Consistent Practice and Fear Conquering.

This article will help you make significant progress towards the freestanding handstand for Yoga.

Practicing Handstand Consistently

Handstand in a Suit

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsdesign/8614939084/

Based on the hundreds of yogis I have worked with who have taken the 28-Day Handstand Challenge (and personal experience), most yoga instructors don’t focus very heavily on the freestanding handstand during yoga classes.

They usually opt for one of several other inversions that are easier for an instructor to manage in a classroom, like the Plow Pose, or the headstand…and even then, the inversion training is usually limited to once a week, if at all.

What most people don’t realize about the handstand, though, is that it is a skill much more than it is a strength maneuver. (Don’t worry, yogis aren’t the only ones who make this mistake…CrossFitters do too.)

The handstand is a skill because you MUST train in subtle movements and techniques that only improve through repetition.

Training skills is usually not very taxing and your improvement is directly related to how much you train (unlike a feat of strength, which is usually taxing and requires rest and recovery).  Training handstands is actually more similar to learning to play the piano than it is to lifting weights or getting your first pushup.

So practicing just once a week isn’t ideal. Even three times a week isn’t ideal. Because of the nature of skill training, practicing at least a little bit, every day (say, 5 minutes per day) will produce the best results.

You need to take it in your own hands to practice handstands daily, even if that means practicing outside of your normal yoga workouts.

For starters, daily training will leverage habit psychology to build a positive addiction.  Daily routines become a part of your normal schedule.  They become something that must be done daily.

Once you have a 5-minute habit established, it effortlessly grows into more frequent practice…which translates into faster learning.

What starts as a single daily 5-minute training session blows up into two sessions a day, then three, then four…then maybe even hours of training every day.  We all know of at least one young musician, who is inseparable from his instrument.  It always starts with a small, consistent regimen, and grows from there.

The more time you put into the skill, the better you will be.  Period.

(Now, I know that there are some instructors that do drill handstands regularly, especially in the more acrobatic forms of yoga.  If you have an instructor like this, then consider yourself lucky! Latch onto that awesome instructor and take advantage of their knowledge and expertise!!

Most of the people who come to me, though, don’t have an instructor with that level of competence.  If you are anything like every yogi who has taken the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, then you are probably even struggling to find an Ashtanga or Acroyoga gym in your area!)

Conquering Handstand Fears

Even if you get into consistent handstand practice, you will likely face another huge problem — the fear of falling.

When it comes to handstands, a lot of instructors and “gurus” sweep fears under the rug.  To my knowledge, I am the only handstand trainer that integrates fear conquering psychology into handstand programming.

I find this shocking, because over 90% of people I have interviewed from the 28-Day Handstand Challenge tell me that fear of falling is what has held them back from handstand training…for years.

So you can’t ignore fear…

Fear is the reason you won’t step away from this article and try kicking up into a handstand.
Fear is the reason you haven’t tried kicking up into a handstand before.
Fear is the reason you won’t make progress.

If you want to perform a handstand, you need to acknowledge this fear and overcome it. There is no other way.

Getting Over Fear

The good news is that getting over this fear is actually a lot simpler than you think.  After all, I helped Lyle overcome vertigo in less than two months, resulting in one of the best beginner’s handstands I have ever seen.

You just need to systematically and gradually introduce yourself to the handstand; to being upside down; to relying on your hands to support you.

More specifically, you need to leverage a psychology technique known as systematic desensitization.  This technique is used around the world for behavior modification.  It requires consistent and regular exposure to your fears (which is another reason you need consistent practice!)

I know what you’re saying, though: “How do I translate this into something actionable?  How do I use systematic desensitization?

First, you need to break the fear down into it’s simplest parts — and after 6000+ 28-Day Handstand Challengers, I have been able to boil down most handstand fears into two key components: fear of being upside down and fear of falling over.

Without a solid strategy, many people let these fears hold them back for years without making progress.

1. Fear of Being Upside Down

Afraid that your arms will give out?  Don’t want to face plant?  Or do you just panic when inverted?!

You are suffering from a general fear of being upside down — but there is hope.

Overcoming this fear is simple and completely risk free – you just need to start in a normal plank, with your feet on the ground.  Then, you put your feet on the wall, and walk your hands a little closer.  Then a little closer.  Then closer still.  Eventually you will find yourself 12 inches from the wall and, *ta-da* you are holding a wall handstand with almost no risk of falling over.

This approach is so powerful because it also takes advantage of normal progressive overloading.  You are gradually loading your hands and shoulders with more of your bodyweight…so you get stronger and reduce fear!  Sounds like a win/win to me.

2. Fear of Falling Over

Scared to kick up and falling flat on your back?  Think you will kick up too powerfully and slingshot your back right into the ground?  Maybe you are scared of actually holding the handstand, then freaking out, losing control, and crashing into a messy heap, sprawled out and crying on the floor…?

But think, would this fear exist if you fell onto a fluffy mat?  Or a soft pit of foam?  What if there was no possibility of being in pain after falling over?  What if there literally was no risk?  What if you had a safety net?

The answer is simple, we need to remove the possibility of you falling over yourself…and no, I don’t mean surrounding yourself with old mattresses and Fluff….



You need to learn to save yourself from a failed handstand.  You need to learn to bail safely.  Once you do that, the fear disappears completely.

I know this sounds too good to be true.  I know it sounds too simple.  But it is true; it is simple.

I have seen hundreds of people conquer both of these fears in less than 28 days.  Even those with vertigo-like symptoms;  even those who never trained the handstand before.

You just need to consistently practice.

Learn to Handstand for Yoga

Handstand Party

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dingatx/4601864798/

You know that you need to focus on two things: overcoming your fears and building a daily handstand habit.

You know the tools to overcome fear: consistent exposure and learning to bail.

So put it all together….the result is a straightforward progression that you can start immediately.

1. Wall Planks

Start by going into a plank pose with your feet on the floor near the wall.  As a yogi, you should be in comfortable territory here!

If you can hold this for 60-seconds (5-8 long breaths), then move your hands a little closer to the wall by walking your hands backwards, and your feet up the wall.  Work on holding the resulting position for 60-seconds.

Repeat this over time, until your hands get to be about 12 inches from the wall (you can measure this by leaving a ruler on the ground just before you start to walk up!)

By approaching the first step in this way, you start in a safe position, and gradually increase your exposure to the fear, while building strength.  This constant exposure reduces the fear.

Also, by starting with a familiar pose, you can feel successful immediately, and every time you get closer, you feel successful still.  This positive reinforcement creates the habit.

2. Wall Handstands

As you get closer to the wall, your plank starts to transform.  As your hips get higher over your head, it turns into a wall handstand instead of a wall plank!

If this took some work for you, then it will hit you like a slap in the face.  Once day, you will turn around and say, “Hey!  I am doing a handstand against the wall!  And I’m not scared!”

But the best part of this challenge is that it’s so similar to the real handstand…and you won’t have any fear.  How could you?  It’s nearly impossible to fall over in this position.

And, even better, this position prepares you to learn the bail, which is the next important part of the process.

3. Pirouette Bailing

While you are on the wall, you can learn the best bailing technique around – the pirouette bail.  I cover this move in 30+ pages in my book, but I also produced a free resource to help you get started on learning to bail without spending a dime.

The bail, like the handstand, is a skill.  You can practice bailing frequently, without fear, since you can set up a safe environment to learn bailing against the wall.

4. Freestanding Control/Kickups

Finally, you can start taking the steps that are necessary to learn freestanding handstand balance.  By the time you get to this stage, you can practice kicking up without fear at any time, anywhere.

The elimination of fear will have completely liberated you to actually start working on the handstand, and then its just a matter of practicing as much as possible…but no less than 5-minutes a day, every day.

In my experience, yogis typically achieve their first successful pirouette bail within 1-4 weeks.  That’s only one week to one month and you will make significant progress.  You can quickly remove a fear that you have been carrying around for years…

Once that fear is eliminated, and you master standard kick ups, you will be able to start working on yoga-specific handstand poses, like jumping from downward facing dog into handstand or extremely advanced skills, like the Handstand Scorpion.

Applying the Process

If you are already taking The 28-Day Handstand Challenge, then you’re ahead of the curve. Keep on training using the challenge, and you will see how it walks you through these steps to get your first handstand (and now you have a better understanding for why the handstand challenge is so powerful for yogis).

But, if you aren’t taking the challenge…you can take the steps I outline above and just wing it.

…or you can take advantage of a free resource (The 28-Day Handstand Challenge) that walks you through the first and most important steps of getting your first freestanding handstand.

If you decide to take The 28-Day Handstand Challenge, you will get a free eBook that outlines getting to your first 60-second wall handstand, including a 5-minute routine that you can do virtually anywhere.  You also get a spreadsheet that helps keep you committed to building the handstand habit.


Sign up for for the 28-Day Handstand Challenge Toolkit.

A Break from “Normal”

Hands Down

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shenamt/8512390996/

If you have looked into training handstands for yoga in the past, then this may appear to be a wildly different approach.  For example, many yogis start with headstands, stay on the wall for months, or just “wing it” with the kickup….

…but you should see now that these progressions may not be so effective.

Headstands don’t address the fear of falling over, nor do they build the necessary strength in the arms and shoulders.  If you can headstand, it has almost no impact on handstand balance.  These are too entirely different skills, so learning to headstand is a waste of time if the ultimate goal is handstanding.

Staying on the wall for months is a waste of time.   Yes, you do need to spend some time on the wall, but you shouldn’t stay there any longer than necessary.  Once you can bail, you need to start moving away from the wall.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, this can be done in a few weeks, not months or years.

“Wing it” with the kickup? Are you kidding me? Anyone who has you attempting kick ups on your first day of training just doesn’t get it.  The fear of falling over is huge…and the risk of injury is even bigger. You shouldn’t be kicking up until you know how to bail safely. There is simply no reason to take that risk, when you can systematically eliminate that risk in just a few weeks.

No matter the progression, though, the biggest difference between a handstand program that works and one that doesn’t is consistency.

Most people I have worked with only take their yoga classes once or twice a week.  Even if you have an awesome instructor who is showing you exactly what you needed to do every session, you wouldn’t be practicing enough to get the handstand in a reasonable timeframe.

In fact, after working with so many new adult handbalancers, I can confidently say that training less than five times per week is a sub-optimal.  Less than three times a week is usually a waste of time.

If you aren’t going to train the handstand frequently, then you are better off spending that time on something else.

Get Started.  Right Now.


You are already familiar with the Plank Pose.  You have an empty wall in your house, office or gym (or, you can clear one out).

Go there now and do a quick 5-minute sessions of wall planks by walking up the wall and seeing how far you can get without fear. You should embrace the motivation right now, while you are inspired and motivated.

I’ll give you 5 minutes.  Go do it.  It’s just 5 minutes.  Pretend it’s a bathroom break, or something.

Did you do it?  How did it feel?

Now, take the 28-Day Handstand Challenge and you will get the free Handstand Toolkit (including an against-the-wall progression and commitment spreadsheet).  Follow that progression, and practice every day.  You will make huge progress!

Now just go out there and train!


Sign up for for the 28-Day Handstand Challenge Toolkit.

Amazing Lyle: How a Retiree Hit His Handstand Goal

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Meet Lyle, the retiree who achieved his lifelong handstand goal.

When Lyle retired from being a scientist and biologist, he wanted to run away and join the circus…!  He wanted to be an acrobat!

Lyle has been working on handstands for nearly 4 years. And, a few months ago, progress wasn’t coming.  Lyle purchased scores of bodyweight fitness books, scoured the internet for tips and tricks, attended to handstand seminars…and still couldn’t get away from the wall.

Lyle was frustrated. Lyle was stuck. Lyle was going nowhere fast.

But, through all of his internet searching and research, Lyle found the 28-Day Handstand Challenge. He accepted the challenge and immediately sent me an email.  He let me know the the number one thing holding him back…fear.

Lyle Email

Lyle ultimately purchased The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide, which was a small investment compared to the other six books he purchased, and the seminars he attended.  That’s when I started working with him directly.

As I got to working with Lyle, I realized that this wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill fear we had to conquer.  Oh, no.  Whenever Lyle would get inverted, his world would spin.  He gut would wrench.  He would get severely nauseous.  Lyle was suffering from vertigo, and it was not pleasant.

On top of that, Lyle had undergone over 10 major surgeries in his lifetime, including four that addressed key handstand anatomy – the hands, wrists and facial sinuses.

With the deck was stacked against him, Lyle still had this goal.. and he really wanted it.  What’s most surprising is that it was only a few small changes that took him from 4 years of stagnation to his first handstand hold.

He’s lucky that he didn’t take the easy way out, and just write it off as impossible…

On July 19th, just over two months after he started  the 28-Day Hhandstand Challenge, I received a video that shocked me. Lyle sent me his first freestanding handstand video and it was one of the most impressive beginner’s handstands I had ever seen!!  

This is his story.

Lyle’s Story

Lyle's Handstand

Chris: Thanks for sharing your story Lyle! To start off, we know that you’re retired…but what did you do before retiring?

Lyle: Prior to retiring, I was a biologist specializing in endangered species.  During a 33-year career, I worked with many different species of plants and animals, but spent the most time on conservation efforts for bats and carnivores.

Chris: You told me you wanted to retire and be an acrobat! Is that why you wanted to learn to perform the handstand?

Lyle: I wanted to learn the handstand because the movement personifies strength, balance, body awareness, and coordination.  It also looks neat!

Chris: That’s awesome! But you really had the deck stacked against you.  What was the biggest help when you were overcoming vertigo and fears of falling over?

Lyle: The pseudo-vertigo condition I deal with significantly limited my pirouette bailing practice because of nausea.  Vertigo virtually eliminated the possibility of using a rolling bail technique.  I was also afraid that the rotational force on an injured wrist would be problematic.  There were three keys to finally succeeding.  One was definitely the pirouette bailing methodology prescribed in The 15-Second Handstand.  Another was the help and suggestions from your emails.  Most importantly, a great deal of perseverance.  As I gain more and more control of the pirouette bails, I have less discomfort.  I have found that the pirouette bail results in less rapid eye movement.  This enables me to practice more/longer with no ill effects.

Chris: It seems like you acquired a lot of information… I mean, you had emails with me, the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, my 15-Second Handstand book, half a dozen other books and handstand seminars… From all of these resources, what is the BEST piece of advice you received during your handstand journey?

Lyle: Consistent practice is the single most important piece of advice.  In the beginning of my journey, wall handstands were a strength movement.  I failed to recognize that.  By the time I could hold a 90 second wall handstand, moving to free handstands was actually a skill movement and required more regular practice. Before the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, I was practicing once every 8 days to do a free handstand.  It was an exercise in futility.  I needed to practice more frequently.

Chris: I heavily push daily practice in the 28-Day Handstand Challenge, and am always talking about it (like in this article, about CrossFit and Handstands).  When we were working together, you kept telling me that you had these “bad habits” that needed fixing.  Do you think you really had bad habits?  Or did you just need proper direction?

Lyle: There is no question that proper direction (as provided by The 15-Second Handstand) would have significantly shortened my handstand journey.

Chris:  Its amazing how many people over analyze the handstand.  Most times, you just need to simplify it down to a few key steps.. One question I get a lot is about finding a place to train…where did you practice your handstands?

Lyle: I have practiced handstands anywhere I could find a bare wall with some space in front of it.  The majority of my practice has been at gyms, home, and motel rooms and hallways.  I have much more freedom now that I am no longer confined by a wall.

Chris: Well, I find your handstand journey inspirational and awesome.  Not to mention, you have the best beginner’s handstand I have ever seen.  To wrap this up, why don’t you let everyone know your biggest handstand influence…?

Lyle: Over the last year, I’ve been working out with some acroyogis and acrobats.  Nothing but perfect form is acceptable (if you can’t make it look nice, it isn’t worth doing).  They are almost all 30+ years younger than me and fairly idealistic, but a lot of fun nonetheless.  As a result, form has taken precedence over success.

Chris: And whats your goal as you go beyond 15-Second handstands?

Lyle: Once I have developed more consistency with handstands, I would like to learn to press into a handstand.  The movement takes all the positive attributes of the handstand to the next level.  The ability to press into a handstand would be an(other) incredible accomplishment.

Become The Next Success Story

Lyle Pirouette Bailing

Does Lyle’s story sound familiar? Do you doubt yourself or your abilities because you are “too fat”, “too frail” or “too old” to perform a handstand?

Fortunately, Lyle and others show us that it can be done.

By making smart, small adjustments to your lifestyle and attitude, you can make real progress and achieve things that you thought couldn’t be done “in a million years”.  Things you have been working on for months, years or even decades.

Lyle was able to build a system for his success. This wasn’t a quick fix…these were real changes that start with taking a challenge and building positive habits.  It’s focusing on proper direction, and consistent progress.

These small steps won’t get you the handstand overnight. BUT you can build a system of habits to get there in just a few weeks…and these same habits will take you way beyond handstands.

Lyle took action:

Continued Perseverance: Lyle hit road block after road block.  It took me over a year to get my first handstand – but Lyle was trying for nearly four.  When something wasn’t generating results, of course Lyle was frustrated, but he kept looking for different approaches, until he found one that worked for him.

Consistent, Steady Practice: Before Lyle started on my programs, he was only practicing once every 8 days.  It took him years to realize that handstands are mostly a skill…and all skills need to be practiced regularly.  Switching over to daily practice and making handstands a regular habit are crucial to success.  For any skill, you want to train as frequently as possible.  Once Lyle had that epiphany, it only took him a few months to hit his first handstand.

Lyle educated himself: When Lyle hit a sticking point, he would back up and try again.  He would find another resource, and read it voraciously.  (When I think of people doing handstand research, I think of an acolyte reading tomes of parchment by candlelight.  I think I am reading too much Game of Thrones…). He would find another expert, and get all of the information he could out of them. This is why Lyle’s form is one of the best I have seen in a new hand balancer.  Lyle really knows where all of the pieces fit, and puts them together beautifully – but thats not an accident.

Lyle fixed over analysis:  This is what separates Lyle from the masses who try and try but don’t achieve…or the people who get so overwhelmed that they give up.  Lyle was bombarding himself with information.  This helped his form, but destroyed his confidence.  He kept thinking he had “bad habits” that didn’t exist – when he really just needed to know the one thing he should be working on at any given point.  And since I lay this out step by step in The 15-Second Handstand he was able to fix his over analysis and break through his plateau.

Lyle surrounded himself with his heroes: Do you know the #1 predictor of the time of your marriage?  Don’t know?  It when all of your friends are getting married. What about the #1 most effective way to quit smoking? Suddenly surround yourself with non-smokers.  Your environment is a powerful thing.  When Lyle retired, he wanted to learn more acrobatic skills…and he changed his environment.  He sought out acrobats and acroyogis.  He attended seminars for bodyweight fitness and hand balancing.  He emailed me personally to discuss his handstands (and, as I always do, I responded personally back to him). Surrounding yourself with positive people who are a few steps ahead of you is a surefire way to make progress and stay committed.

Lyle found his manual: After banging his head against the wall, Lyle found a step-by-step guide. Let’s be honest, researching what needs to be done is a lot more difficult than following specific, effective instructions…but we can talk ourselves out of anything if there are too many choices or too much uncertainty. The material in The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide took thinking out of the process for him and spoke his language. Lyle had already read a million different resources or ways to get the handstand (which can overwhelm anybody)…but when he found a resource that made sense to him and gave it a solid chance he hit his goal within 8 weeks.  What progress have you made in the last 8 weeks?

Congrats to Lyle on hitting an amazing goal. I know he is already moving onto his next goal and will become even more impressive!!

Do you have any questions for the man?

When will you be sending in YOUR success story? (Seriously, I love success stories, even if you didn’t use my book – send me your story so we can feature you on the site too!)

Start with small commitments.  Just 5-minutes a day to start. You can train the handstand anywhere!

And then celebrate your success, like Lyle!


PS: Of course, I’m proud that Lyle used the materials in The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide to help him succeed on his journey. It spoke his language, laid out things in a step-by-step progression and gave him a blueprint to manage. If you are struggling to learn the handstand, get constantly get overwhelmed or simply want to be more impressive, don’t underestimate the importance of picking a plan that makes sense to you. I don’t care if it’s the The 15-Second Handstand: A Beginner’s Guide or any other plan, as long as you pick one and stick with it!