Arm balances seem and look really impressive. They are a great addition to any yoga practice since they build stability and core strength. Arm balances do more than help you build physical strength, they also help you learn to persevere and not take your yoga practice too seriously. You will fall, and probably stumble a few times, but once you master an arm balance, your strength, stability, coordination, and confidence will all improve.
Here are 5 tips for practicing arm balances:
1. Be aware of where you are in your practice
You will have much more success with arm balances if you are realistic about where you are as a yogi. Some arm balances are good for beginners, while others are more advanced. If you’re a beginner, go ahead and try Scorpion, but don’t be surprised if it’s just a bit out of reach. Conversely, if you’re an advanced yogi and have been practicing Mayurasana (Peacock Pose) for a while, consider trying something a bit harder like Dragonfly or Koundinyasana (Sage Kaundinya's) pose. You won’t improve as a yogi if you don’t push more, find your edge and try something new.
2. Find your drishti
Just like finding your gaze (drishti) in balancing standing poses, finding a gaze in arm balances is essential. Find a stationary focal point a comfortable distance out in front of you. If it’s too far away or too close, it will be hard for you to focus.
3. Don’t push too hard too fast
It’s easy to rush into arm balances, even if you’ve been practicing yoga for months; it’s important to make sure you’re moving into the balance slowly and with intention. When you rush, or push yourself too fast and too hard, you end up frustrated, disappointed, or injured. Practicing arm balances regularly you begin to see improvements over time.
4. Warm up
Before you attempt to practice any arm balance, make sure you have warmed up your body beforehand. Practice a few rounds of Sun Salutations. It’s much harder to nail an arm balance if you’re going into it cold.
5. Press Down
In order to lift up, you have to press down through your hands. Make sure to press evenly through your hand, and engage your fingertips. Try to avoid putting all the pressure on the base of your palm as this will lead to wrist injuries.
Purvottanasana or Upward Plank pose (as many people refer to it), comes from the Sanskrit word Purva meaning east side (anterior portion of the body) and Uttana meaning intense. The direct translation is intense stretching of the east or anterior portion of the body. Although not usually practiced in typical Vinyasa style yoga classes, Purvottanasana is the eighth pose of the Ashtanga primary series, and the third seated pose. It is one of the best postures in the seated primary series for developing hamstring and back bending strength.
This pose is unique in a couple of ways; first, it lengthens the front of your body, from head to toe by lifting your front body away from the floor into a gradual back-bend strengthening your back for other back bends, such as Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Second, it is one of the few poses that takes your arms into deep extension, a movement that is useful preparation for Shoulderstand; another pose that requires similar action at the shoulder joint.
Tips for Beginners
If you cannot get in the full position, do not worry! At first this position can be difficult, but do not become discouraged. You can practice this pose by leaving your knees bent (as seen in the picture), as if your body was a table with four legs. Once you are in this “table-top” position, slowly begin to lift your hips and pelvis off the floor using the strength of your quadriceps. Remember to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.
Gradually practice. Hold for a few seconds at a time in Purvottanasana and practice the position in short sessions that will lengthen progressively over time. Remember to breathe in and out through your nose (don’t hold your breath).
Because you bear your body weight on your wrists and hands in the extended position, people with wrist problems, including wrist pains, sprains, strains, and carpel tunnel syndrome, should use caution when practicing this pose. You may should modify your hand position, use a wedge, or lower onto your elbows to do the pose safely. As with any pose that drops your head back into a back-bend (extension), people with neck issues, especially degenerative discs and facet joint arthritis, should consider keeping the chin tucked to your chest when practicing this pose.
If you suffer from any medical condition, seek the advice from your healthcare professional prior to beginning any exercise regimen, including yoga.
Yoga is a beneficial activity for both physical and mental health. It not only works as a power form of stress relief, but also strengthens your body. By engaging in specific yoga poses, you can target areas of your body that you would like to tone, including your arms. If you have extra flab, you can use yoga as part of a healthy diet and exercise program to shape problem areas and develop stronger arm muscles.
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