You don't need super human strength to pull off an arm balance in yoga! Check out these tips for a successful crow pose and running man arm balance
In high school, I was a cheerleader. Not the kind that just stood there in a skirt, the kind that threw people up in the air, went to competitions every weekend and was a state champion - some of the only state champs my middle class high school had in a sea of far wealthier western suburban schools of Minneapolis. Cheerleading might not seem to have anything to do with my current yoga practice, except it's the reason I can do just about any arm balance. Not because it made me strong. But because cheerleading taught me where my center of gravity is. Much like riding a bike, once you learn that you never forget it (even if it gets a tad rusty)! Arm balances are daunting to some, but here are my 5 tips to get you rocking at them!
These are my general tips for all arm balances, but I'm going to break down crow pose and running man since they're two of the most common arm balances I see in a vinyasa yoga class.
Yes, obviously you need some arm strength if you're going to support your weight on your hands. But more than arm strength, you need CORE strength. If you only rely on your arms to support your weight, you're making an arm balance far too challenging on yourself. If you use your core muscles to lend those arms a hand, and pull up through your core (I'm talking butt and abs) your arms won't need to be as strong. In fact, I can almost promise you that if you use your core, your arms are strong enough to support your weight TODAY.
Arm balances (and inversions like headstands, for that matter) are 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Arm balances haven't really ever scared me because I'm so close to the ground when I'm attempting them that I don't care if I fall on my face. But my frame of reference is being thrown 15 feet up in the air for a basket toss, or a pyramid that was two and a half people high in college cheerleading. THAT is scary to fall from! An arm balance? Aint no thang! And I've biffed it out of plenty of arm balances - never been hurt once. Let go of the mental fear of placing weight on your arms and you're most the way there! This is both the easiest and most challenging tip I have.
|When you're just starting, it's easier to put your knees on the OUTSIDE of your elbows, shown above|
|Bring your weight forward until you're able to lift your toes off the ground|
|Boom! Crow pose. Once you've got it, your knees go into your armpits, like I'm doing here.|
3 Bring your weight forward
I think this is what drives the fear: When you're in an arm balance, you have your weight on your arms, supported with your core. But you have all your legs behind you. To counter the weight of your legs, you need to bring your weight (and your face) way forward over your arms. People tend to get nervous when they can no longer see their hands or what's supporting them. But if you can let go of the fear and bring your weight forward, you'll be able to...
4 Find your center of gravity
Play around with where your center of gravity is! It's hard to describe and it's different for every person and every body. But once you find it, you'll feel it. You'll go from being wobbling and unsure of yourself to, "Hey! Yeah! Ok. I got this!" It's a secure feeling. Play around with weight distribution and find that center of gravity.
I did land crow pose the first time I attempted it (I swear it's because of those cheerleading skills!), but I didn't get good at it for a few years. I had to practice. And I still can't "float back" into chatturanga from crow pose. I'm going to blame having two kids in a year and a half on that, because that takes some crazy core strength I just don't have - yet! But I WILL get it with practice, just like you will get your arm balances with regular attempts and practice.
|Three legged dog|
|Swoop your knee forward to elbow to knee from three legged dog. Do this slowly to build strength, avoiding momentum|
|Once you get the hang of three legged dog to knee to elbow, start to bend your arms like you would in chatturanga and bring that weight forward!|
|Straighten your leg and boom! Running man|
Yoga arm balances ARE achievable! It's about the physical strength of your core muscles and the mental strength you have getting over the fear of falling on your face. Pro tip: If you are going to fall out of a balance, and we all do at one point, remember to turn your head to the side so you don't bonk your nose or chip a tooth! It's funny when someone falls out of a balance in class, but it's not so funny if they get a nose bleed or an expensive dentist bill. If you use these 5 tips though, you'll be rocking those yoga arm balances in no time!