Kick off National Yoga Month with 7 tips for starting and maintaining an at home yoga practice.Read more
This month’s focus is breaking down some arm balances. When I first started practicing yoga, I would see happy-faced people standing on their hands and I used to think, “That’s awesome! Those people are probably professionals!” Leave it to the professionals, right!? No way! Yoga is a practice, therefore, you can absolutely balance on your hands or fold or bend your way with consistency, determination, and love. There’s no need to rush into nailing it the first time or the second or any time for that matter but we’ll breakdown some avenues to get started.
Before you begin the exercises depicted in this article, please make sure that you are in good health and sufficiently physically fit to engage in the type of activity depicted.
First and foremost, have fun! Warm up the body and your breath by incorporating a few Sun Salutations to begin. It’s important to get the body moving and open. Here are a few poses that you can add into your warm-up. 5-10 breaths in each posture:
5-10 breaths: Side stretch with wrist grab
5-10 breaths: Chair Twists each side
5-10 breaths: Funky Chair Forward Fold
5-10 breaths: Seated cradle the baby
It’s impossible to talk about arm balancing without a mention of crow pose, bakasana. This is typically the first arm balance that comes into play in the practice. It’s also my favorite one to teach because eyes light up when we take flight.
Crow Pose: Plant your hands
1. Plant your hands slightly in front of you, shoulder-width distance.
2. Grip the mat with your fingers with so much action your knuckles change color.
3. Push all four corners of your palms down.
4. Come up on to your tip-toes.
5. Gaze is slightly forward. Our head’s are pretty heavy, so keep looking ahead towards the top of your mat. If the gaze flashes to the toes, the upper body tends to follow suit.
6. Take your knees out wide wrapping the outsides of your triceps. Squeeze your knees around your arms until your body shakes. All of that shaking is building strength and working your core which is where we balance from when we take flight. A teacher once said to us, “think of your knees as chopsticks and your triceps become a dumpling. Squeeze your dumpling!”
7. Bend your elbows and shift your weight forward creating a shelf for your upper body.
8. Lift your hips high and round your back body, keeping the knees wrapping the outsides of your triceps, and lift your toes one set at a time.
9. Fly, bakasana, fly! And breathe!
Fly, bakasana, fly!
When you feel strong and confident in wrapping the triceps, begin to challenge yourself to balance the knees behind your triceps and as high up toward your armpits. Someday your crow will become a crane pose with straight arms.
Side crow is a fun posture to play in from utkatasana chair twist.
As you play in this balance, work towards balancing the thighs on to one elbow, freeing the opposite elbow in preparation for other wild and fun arm balances.
This asana requires us to bend, twist, stretch, squeeze, and balance. 8-Angle Sage Pose, so much going on here!
1. Come to a seat and hug your left shin towards your body, left elbow wraps the left knee and the right elbow wraps the bottom of the left foot.
2. Sit up tall, relax the shoulders down onto your back. Gently rock side to side to open your hip.
3. Once your hips feel open. Plant your left hand just beneath your left hip-cheek.
4. Take your right hand to your foot and slowly wrap your left leg high up onto your arm towards your left shoulder.
5. Plant your right hand close to the outside of your right hip.
6. Cross your right leg over and hook your ankle around the top of the left foot. The squeeze the knees and thighs foward, pressing into your left arm.
7. Press into the earth, lifting your cheeks off your mat, keeping squeezing your legs together.
8. Bend the elbows, send your chest forward. Draw shoulder blades towards one another.
9. Extend the legs out to your left and lift off!
After you’ve played and balanced, take some wrists stretches, like gorilla pose. Stepping your feet on your hands and kneading your toes on the insides of your wrists.
Or come to a seated position and flip your palms over on the insides of you knees or on the mat in front you and press to give your wrists a counter stretch.
Seated wrist stretch
I love arm balancing and teaching others how to access poses that are put on a “never could I ever” shelf because that is what I thought about taking flight. You can absolutely do things that look impossible. Invite yourself to try, play, fall, and laugh yourself into balancing on your hands. It takes time to practice weight distribution. Be patient with yourself and have fun!