05 May Arm Balance Yoga Poses – The Secret to Success
Practicing arm balances in yoga not only helps to develop core and arm strength, but also helps to improve concentration and can help overcome a fear of falling!
Many people find arm balances difficult in yoga, they believe that they would not physically be able to hold themselves up with just their arms, however, this is not necessarily the case. Performing an arm balance requires four things:
Obviously with all arm balance, a good amount of arm strength is needed to hold your whole weight on your hands. If you have been practising yoga for a while, you will be surprised the amount of strength you have in your arms from doing other poses such as Warrior 3, Plank, Chataranga, Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog and many other inversions.
Just like any other arm balance, core strength is needed to hold the pose. By engaging the core it helps to protect the lower back and keeps you stable and balanced in the pose.
Equal weight distribution
When I teach an arm balance to my class, I always tell people that they have to find that balancing point in the middle of getting your feet off the ground and putting your face on the ground! If you think of a see-saw, to make the it balance equally you have to have both ends level. It is the same for an arm balance. If you imagine your arms are the pivot in the middle, your head is one end of the see-saw and your feet are the other – you have to make your feet and your head at a level weight between your arms to make yourself balance.
Confidence / bravery
Yes, bravery IS an essential part of holding an arm balance. Many people have such a fear of falling flat on their face that they cannot bring themsleves forward enough to hold themselves up on their arms. The way I tell students to practice an arm balance if fear is the one thing holding them back is to go home, get lots of pillows and cushions and lay them all around you and fall out of the arm balance over and over again. You may think I’m crazy telling people to fall out of the pose when the purpose is to hold the pose, but by falling out of the pose, not only do they begin to loose the fear of falling as they realise it’s not that scary and you are not that far from the ground so don’t really fall very far; but it also helps students to find that ‘tipping-point’, or that point of balance that I mentioned above!
So now you know the secrets of perfecting an arm balance, give these three arm balances a try and see if the techniques above help you:
Scale Pose / Tolasana
- Begin in a seated cross-legged posture, such as Easy Seated Pose.
- Using your hands for assistance come into lotus posture. Draw the right foot up onto the left thigh with the heel in the crease of the hip joint. Turn the sole of the foot up and lengthen through the ankle. Then bring the left foot up onto the right thigh with the heel touching the hip joint and the sole of the foot turned up.
- Press both ankles firmly down into the thighs as you flex through your feet.
- Place both hands on either side of your hips and ground down into all four corners of your palms. Play with engaging your hands and arms before lifting your sit bones up off the ground. MODIFICATION = Place two blocks under the hands to lift you higher, which will make it easier to come off the ground.
- Stay here for three to five breaths. Exit by lowering to the ground and uncrossing your legs mindfully. Remember to practice both sides of the pose by switching the lead leg in the lotus formation.
Shoulder Pressing Pose /Bhujapidasana
- Begin in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. Bring your feet to shoulder width distance apart. Bend at the knees and come into a squatting position.
- Lift yourself up slightly and place your hands behind your feet, tucking your thighs onto the tops of your arms. Hug your upper arms with the insides of your thighs.
- Ground down through your hands. Bend your elbows back for stability. Lower your hips behind you. Come onto the balls of your feet in front of you.
- Lift one foot up at a time or both so that your feet come off the ground. Cross either foot in front of the other and flex or point both to hook them together.
- Straighten your arms any amount. Draw your hooked feet away from your center. Hold and breathe.
- Exit on an exhalation. Unhook your feet and slowly lower your hips down behind you.
Side Crow Pose / Parsva Bakasana
- From standing, lower down into a squat with your big toes and knees touching. Rest on the balls of your feet.
- Walk your hands over to the left. Place them shoulder width apart in a perpendicular line to your knees.
- Bend into your elbows and place the outer edge of your left thigh onto your right elbow (some people also find it easier to rest your left hip on to your left elbow).
- Engage your core and hug your knees together. Tilt your torso forward as you lift both your feet up off the floor. Keep the hands pressed into the floor and extend through your spine. If you are comfortable here, you may wish to open up the legs, sending your left leg forward and your right leg behind you (as shown in the picture above).
- Allow your feet to come to the floor to exit the posture.