Isn’t it funny how some days we can float or balance in yoga with ease, while on others it can feel almost impossible to be still or lift our feet off the mat?
It’s the nature of yoga to have a different experience each time we practice. And as arm balances require both strength and courage, it’s no surprise that the postures can be some of the trickiest.
Here are a few of our favourite ways to master the art of going upside down and feeling that sense of flying on your hands:
1. Work on your wrists
It’s really important to protect and strengthen our wrists when practicing arm balances.
Warm up your wrists with gentle circles and taking a few rounds of chaturanga before moving into arm balances.
When you balance, place your weight on the base of your fingers and the top of your palm – also known as the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. This will also help you find your centre of balance and stillness.
To restore and release the wrists, follow with padahastasana or hands to feet pose.
2. Lose vying for the ‘final’ pose
When you’re next to someone in class who appears effortless in flying pigeon or side crow and you’re still working on lifting your toes, it’s easy to compare and feel like we’re ‘not as good’ at yoga.
But if we know anything about the practice, it’s that it’s completely okay if you don’t get a pose “right” on your first, second or even fiftieth go. That’s yoga.
If you have fun with the process and take the perspective that we’re lucky to be able to move our bodies on the mat and give advanced postures a go; the experience changes. With this outlook, one day, when you least expect it, you may find you’re able to simply float up. Or you may not!
3. It’s all about the core
To balance and feel in control in any asana, we need to draw our belly in towards our spine and engage our core.
Arm balances are no different. While it’s common for students to think that arm strength is key to holding these postures, turning on our abdominals is even more important!
Practising Navasana or boat pose is a great way to build core strength and when you switch on these muscles when balancing, you’ll start to notice real change.
4. Know your shoulders
The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in our bodies and therefore it can also be the most vulnerable in yoga.
When bearing weight on our hands and arms, we need to engage our core but also make sure our shoulders are up for the challenge too. Strengthen your shoulders by practicing Plank and drawing your shoulders back and down, before slowing transitioning through Chaturanga.
If you’ve completed your yoga teacher training at BodyMindLife or simply taken a class with our head of yoga Noelle Connolly, you’ll know that Dolphin pose is one of the best ways to build stability and strength in the shoulders – and can seriously improve your development in advanced postures like forearm stand or pincha mayurasana.
5. Come back to the mind
As one of our arm balance pros Christian Ralston puts it, “every time you feel challenged in an arm balance, or any other pose for that matter, you have the chance to draw on capacities that you don’t know you have. When you lose the fear and just give it a go, you can achieve positions you never thought were possible and you’ll start looking out for other challenges. This outlook helps us on the mat and in life, too. You may start to think, “what else can I achieve?”. And it might not be related to yoga at all!”.
Ready to play with arm balances? Stay tuned for our abdominals and inversions week in our Essentials classes.
Image credit: Christian Ralston, @breathinglightphotography