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4 Key Steps to Building an Arm Balance Practice

Arm balances are everywhere these days. They pop up on Instagram and yoga studio posters as the epitome of yoga accomplishment. Yet, they’re often among the most frightening poses for students to try. The concept of flying fearlessly into wild, inverted poses plagues many yogis.

I’m here to tell you: this collection of poses is not reserved for advanced yoga practitioners. With a few tips and tricks (plus practice, practice, practice), you’ll find yourself in Crow, Hurdler, and Headstand in no time!

Benefits of Arm Balances

First off, why bother practicing arm balances in the first place? Balancing poses help us connect with the present moment. And when you add in the challenge of balancing on your arms, the amount of mental focus required increases. You’re never going to get up into a headstand if you’re thinking about the day’s to-do list. Practice arm balances if you’re in need of a strengthened mental focus.

Additionally, arm balances increase flexibility, core and shoulder strength, as well as feelings of self-confidence and courage. Plus, they offer a playful and curious way to approach our bodies!

What’s not to love? If you’re eager to give these a try, but maybe a bit scared about how to begin, read on for four tips to help you build your arm balance practice.

4 Key Steps to Building an Arm Balance Practice

Confidence- Honestly, guys building confidence is key to arm balancing. We are all a bit nervous about face planting. It happens every now and then. So what?! It’s totally okay to fall out of the pose and laugh your ass off. We all do it. The more we practice balancing on our hands, the more confidence and strength we will gain. It just takes time, practice and patience.

Strategic Weight Placement– How many times have you heard your instructor remind you not to put your weight into the heel of your hand? This is because when your weight is in the palm of your hands, there’s nothing to stop you from falling backward. Instead, strategically place your body weight between your thumb and pointer finger – pushing more into your knuckles than the heel of your hand. By moving the balance point forward like this, you instantly gain more control.

Shoulder Strength – Your shoulder blades are a critical, and often neglected, body part when moving into arm balances. You need them to support your arms, especially when you’re in a straight-arm balance. We often help students increase scapular strength by holding an engaged Plank pose, asking them to puff up between the shoulder blades – almost like a Cat Pose.

Core strength- All balance poses rely heavily on a strong core, and arm balances are no exception. To build an arm balance practice, you must learn to lock off one part of your body (example: core) so you can use that stability to launch into more complicated poses. We often encourage students to focus on their core by asking them to flex their belly during every single yoga pose of the class. Eventually, engaging the core will become second nature.

Ready to Try Arm Balances?

Are you ready to put these tips into practice? Join us at Yoga Fever for a special arm balance workshop ‘Learn to Fly with E’, hosted by our favorite flyer: Elizabeth Sanders! On January 21, from 1:00pm-2:30pm, Elizabeth will guide you from stretching and strength-building poses into full arm balances for just $18. There’s no experience required and this is not a heated event. We’ll start from where you are and work on the four tips above – prepare to amaze yourself!

Remember: so much of the fear of arm balances comes from physical limitations in our heads. Think of how easily little kids throw themselves into headstands. They don’t necessarily have the strongest core or the best technique; rather, they’re simply not scared to try something new – and maybe fall once in a while. Trust us, you owe it to yourself to try something new this month – we’ll always be there to catch you!

Savasana: The Sponge Pose

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. This makes it one of the most challenging poses in yoga because it asks you to become perfectly still and quiet in your body and mind without drifting off into snoozeville. Yes, it’s possible. Don’t be discouraged – read on.

Its Sanskrit name, “Savasana” (shah-VAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words. The first is “Sava” (meaning “corpse”), and the second is “asana” (meaning “pose”). We like to refer to this pose as the “sponge pose”. It’s where you absorb all of the benefits and the mental imprint of the shapes you just created with your body. In Savasana, you lie completely on your back with your eyes closed. You gradually relax one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time. This my friends, is FREEDOM.

Practicing Savasana stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (that “fight or flight” concept) that’s activated during the rest of yoga practice. Relaxing your physical body offers numerous benefits, including lowered blood pressure, a decreased heart rate, and less muscle tension. Furthermore, it results in reduced occurrence of headaches, improved concentration and memory, and relief from anxiety and panic attacks.

Unlike active, physically demanding poses, Savasana requires a conscious decision to soften the dialogue in your mind and surrender fully into a state of presence. We move from a state of “doing” yoga to a state of simply “being” yoga.

And, folks, this is hard.

We must not only relax our muscles, but also become equally skilled at letting our mental chatter (chitta) vanish for the benefits of this pose to occur. Unfortunately, our bodies and minds often throw us a number of distractions. And that’s okay!! Just become the witness and observe each distraction for what it is. Allow it to flow into your mind and watch it leave just as quickly as it entered. This is part of the process. A few examples of distractions may be you have an itch or your body might feel sweaty, especially after our hot yoga classes. Your mind might think: “Did I ever send that email?” or “What’s for dinner?” Perhaps you think: “Come on, relax already!” or “Zzzz…”

So, don’t underestimate the art of relaxation. Many yoga students who can easily balance, bend, and twist throughout class, struggle when it comes to lying on the floor. You can’t demand relaxation – anyone who’s ever had trouble falling asleep at night knows this. That’s why we thought we’d share five simple steps that can help you improve your Savasana practice.

Steps to a Successful Savasana:

  • Set yourself up for success– Stretch out on your mat, making sure you’re completely comfortable. Wipe your sweaty face with a towel. Place a blanket under your head or lower back for additional support if needed. The more relaxed and comfortable you are as you begin your Savasana, the more you can easily surrender your thoughts and mind.
  • Take one large, cleansing breath– This last, audible exhale signals to your body to release into Savasana and gives you a sense of accomplishment for showing up and doing your best. It also is a detoxifying breath to let go of any remaining stress or negative residue.
  • Scan for tension– In your mind, run through each part of your body and draw it closer to the ground. Evaluate places of tension, especially those hiding in your jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips. Stress often accumulates in these areas.
  • Notice your thought patterns– Some days will be easier than others. That’s okay! Try to be at ease, trusting the power of your breath. Look out for the peaceful moments of quiet between your thoughts. Gradually, these will become longer and longer – and you’ll discover more inner quiet.
  • Exit gently– To leave the pose, first begin to wake your body by slowly wiggling your fingertips and toes. Continue by rolling your wrists and feet. Then, roll gently onto one side in the fetal position, cradling your head with your arm. Take several breaths here before pressing your hands against the floor and lifting your torso into a seated position with your eyes closed. It’s important to exit Savasana gracefully, allowing your body the time and space to return to reality.

In our rapidly moving world, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. While our society tends to place great value on speed and productivity, learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.