There is something about arm balances in yoga. When you start out you look in awe at the people going in any type of balance. You try too, but your feet seem to be glued to the mat, your arms don’t have the strength and you simply just don’t get it. But you want to know, you want to do it too!
Once you get it, you want more and crazier, it is addictive! Writing a blog about poses to improve arm balances doesn’t make me an expert in them. I am still training like crazy to be able to master all of them. However, there are a few things you can work on when you want to improve your arm balance skills:
- Balance (pictures: 3 – 7 – 8)
- Core strength (pictures: 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
- Open shoulders (pictures: 1 – 4 – 7 – 8)
- Strong wrists (pictures: 5 – 6)
- Engaged legs (pictures: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8)
There are many many poses that can help you prepare and get strong enough or to improve your arm balance. But below I have put down a few that have been very helpful to me.
Some basis rules when you perform the poses:
- Make long, deep and controlled breaths through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.
- Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
- Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
- There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.
- When in the pose try to be aware of what comes up. What happens in your body.
Picture 1: Gomukhasana
Cow Face Pose. Legs: Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under the right knee to the outside of the right hip. Then cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Try to bring the heels parallel next to the hips. Sit evenly on your sitting bones.
Arms: Right leg on top, means right arm up. Raise your arm and bend it, your hand is reaching for your neck or between your shoulder blades. Reach your left arm forward and swing it sideways and back and reach up for your hand. If you can reach it, grab your shirt or a strap. Bring your right elbow up and backwards and see if you can place the back of your head against your wrist. Do at least 3 cycles of breath.
Picture 2: Abs training
Lay on your back. Bring your legs straight up in a 90 degrees angle. Lower one leg until it almost reaches the ground, while you keep your other leg up straight in the 90-degree angle. Bring the leg up and switch. Do it slow, with long inhales and exhales. Repeat with each leg at least 10 times.
Variation: interlace your fingers behind your head and take your head and shoulders of the floor.
Extra round: place your hands under your hips, keep your feet together and bring both legs down as far as you can (they do not touch the floor) and slowly bring them back up. Repeat with a minimum of 5 times.
Picture 3: Paripurna Navasana
Boat pose. Place your feet in front of you, hip distance apart. Hold with your hands under your knees; use this force to straighten your back. Keep your back as straight as possible during the entire pose. Balance on your sit bones; take your feet off the floor. If possible stretch arms out at shoulder height and a next step is to straighten your legs.
Picture 4: Utthan Pristhasana
Lizard pose. Start in a plank or down-wards dog. Take a step forward with your right foot, place it on the outside of your right hand. Make sure your back leg is straight and your hips are in line with the rest of your body. If it is in your range, bring your elbows where your hands were so you intensify the stretch. Stay for a minimum 3 cycles of breath. Switch sides.
Variation: bring your right shoulder under your right knee. Open both arms to the side, as if you are flying. You will intensify the work for your core muscles and balance.
Picture 5: Chaturanga Dandasana
Four-Limbed Staff Pose. From the plank, move your body weight forward. You are now on the tips of your toes. Bring your body weight down, like an airplane coming to land. Create a 90 degrees angle from wrist to elbow and elbow to shoulder. Your shoulders don’t go below your elbows. If you want you can hold the pose for a few breaths to build up strength.
Picture 6: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.
Picture 7: Parivrtta Trikonasana
Revolved triangle pose. Straighten your front leg, have your legs similar to the extended triangle pose. Have your arms out wide, bring the back arm forward and place it on the outside of your front foot. Look up to your hand. If necessary use a block to stabilize. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
Variation arm (as in picture): if you feel stable enough, instead of bringing your arms forward, bring them behind your back. To open your shoulders you have several options:
- Bind your arms by holding your elbows.
- Bring your arms behind you, press the backs of your wrists together and then flip your hands so the palms touch each other fingers pointing up (prayer hands).
- Start the same as 2, but now walk your hands up in between your shoulder blades. Press the palms together firmly.
Picture 8: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose. Stand in mountain pose. Feet are hip distance apart. Bring all the weight to one foot. Take your other leg up by bending your knee. Grab your big toe with your middle finger, pointer finger and thumb via the inside of the leg. Straighten your back and start stretching out your leg. Keep your back straight, so if that means your leg will not be stretched out completely, then that is fine. Focus on a point in front of you. Stay for at least 5 cycles of breath. Switch side.
Picture 9: Bakasana
The crow pose. Bend your knees and come as far down with your hips as possible (butt not touching the floor). Place your hands on the mat, open your fingers as wide as you can. Bring your knee in your armpits or on the outside of your upper arm (not below the elbow). Push with your knees against your arm. Contract your abdominal muscles. Come to the tips of your toes and move your body weight forward. Try to lift one foot, then the other and then both. Balance on your arms as long as you want.