By Roxann D'souza
Our yoga practice can be comforting, but challenging, too. There are poses that we ease into and then there are some poses that scare us before we can even attempt them! And that’s what’s so beautiful about this practice – it creates a balance between comfort and challenge, flexibility and strength, spiritual and physical. Every pose makes us tap into feelings hidden deep within us. While forward folds can be humbling, backbends make us feel victorious and inversions can be liberating.
But one of my personal favourites, has to be arm balances. Arm balancing can be extremely empowering. And even more so, if you’re a woman (like me). I’ve probably lost count of the number of times I’ve heard cliché statements like - women have weaker upper bodies! While that may be true (so what ladies, we have stronger legs!) don’t be disheartened as each and every practitioner has their strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths and my weakness is – arm balances. And now you’re probably wondering how arm balancing can be a strength and a weakness for a person. Well, here’s how- arm balances are the bridge between flexibility and strength. A perfect arm balancing posture requires 3 main factors:
- Strong arms
- Open hip flexors (my weakness) and
- Strong core.
If you lack any of these 3 aspects, your posture will probably look untidy and weak. Let’s break down a posture to understand this a little better, how about...Bakasana?
The crow pose is usually the first arm balance a beginner is introduced to. The pose requires all 3 of the factors listed above, strong arms to carry our bodies, strong core to lift up and flexible hips to place our knees high up on our shoulders. Even though bakasana is a basic arm balance, it’s not the easiest pose and it takes months of practice to master the final posture. But don’t rush this journey, be patient and have fun! Here’s a step – by- step of the posture.
Stretch your arms forward, index finger pointing forward and fingers pointing outward. Roll the front of your elbows (cubital fossa) to face forward.
Hook your knees to your shoulders (your shoulders and knees are friends) or triceps , try and keep your knees as high up as possible.
Slowly begin to lean forward and come up on the tips of your toes, simultaneously bend your elbows towards you. Begin to raise your butt off and away from your feet. This begins to put more pressure on the arms.
At this point, do NOT straighten your ams! Why? Because you’re most likely going to slide off. Just like in chatturanga, you need to keep your arms bent, and stomach drawn in, in bakasana too, you need a slight bend in your arms initially to catch your weight. Engage your core. (As you begin to advance in your practice, you can slowly begin to straighten your arms)
And now you’re ready to lift one leg off and then the other (or together) and fly!
Do not sink into your bakasana but push up and away from the floor, pressing weight into all your fingers. Gaze between your hands or forward. And if you do fall…
Don’t be afraid! Place big fluffy cushion in front of you; if you do fall, you’ll have a nice cushioned landing. Don’t get disheartened – fall down 7 times, get up 8. Do NOT give up.
In the top half of the chart, the knees are placed on the triceps, whereas in the bottom half of the chart, the knees are placed as high as possible, near the shoulders.
Arm balancing literally defies gravity and makes us balance our bodies mid-air which can be physically and mentally, empowering! So what are you waiting for? Roll out your mat and give it a go - take flight, yogis.
About the Author: This article is written by Roxann D'souza. She has completed her yoga teacher training from The Yoga Institute (900 hr RYT), Mumbai and Ashtanga Yoga Mysore (200 hr RYT), Mysore. She has been practising yoga for 4 years and teaching yoga for over 2 years now. You can find her at the Urban Community Development Centre, Bandra for morning and evening classes. Follow her yoga journey on @roxyd90 on Instagram