Here’s my latest article for the Stanly News and Press:
Because most Yoga classes in the US today are done on a drop-in basis, teachers must adapt their classes to all levels of students. In order not to leave anyone behind, teachers will offer an opportunity for students to take an arm balance by getting them in a preparatory pose, but they may not necessarily give complete and detailed instructions on how to get into them.
Arm balances are usually not dangerous to try because you are not very far from the floor, but it is best not to try them unless you feel really strong and are ready to take your practice to another level. I like to place a folded up blanket under my head while trying a new pose to cushion my fall. Falling is part of learning to balance, so expect it and pat yourself on the back for going for it once in a while. If you never achieve the first arm balance, you can still reap the many benefits of practicing Yoga, so never push yourself into them until you are ready.
It is always important to be aware of your foundation in each pose, and in arm balances, that foundation is your hands. The proper alignment of the hands is used any time you are bearing weight on them, be it Table, Downward Facing Dog or Crow. We press the twenty points of the hands into the earth by pressing the each pad of the fingers and each of the knuckle mounds down while lifting the center of the palms up and away from the mat. This position creates stability while also protecting the wrists.
While arm balances obviously require arm strength, core strength is a major necessity in these poses. Balance is achieved through core strength and focus and you will be amazed at how much lighter you feel to your arms when your engage your abdominal muscles.
In poses like Crow, Side Crow, Mountain Climber and Flying Pigeon, it is important to lift the hips up as high as possible before placing the legs on the arms. You must keep your head lifted and never look down because the weight of the head will weigh you down and make it more difficult to hold for an extended time. To “own” the posture, try holding it for at least seven breaths.
Albemarle Pilates and Yoga will be hosting an Arm Balance Workshop on Saturday, June 8th at 10:30 am if you would like instruction, assistance, modifications, preparations and tricks on how to learn and practice many arm balances.
Arm balances are empowering and fun to play with. There is great satisfaction in catching some air and you will definitely celebrate (at least inside) when you do achieve a new arm balancing asana. Just do not take yourself or these difficult poses too seriously and have fun!