“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life.”
Ah! The beloved arm balance asanas. They can be quite intriguing, leaving you in awe and amazement. When I first saw the flying crow pose I thought to myself, how on earth do they do that? I went to my mat only to be in for a rude awakening and a face plant into my mat. I had been practicing yoga for several months, so what went wrong? Well there are a few things that can really help speed up the process.
- You have to build upper body strength-This may seem like a no brainer but it’s very important. The strength gained from doing sun salutations or vinyasa flow classes just isn’t enough. Well, at least it wasn’t for me. You have to put in extra work. That can be irritating since you may already be paying for a yoga membership and really don’t want the added costs of going to the gym. Have no fear! You can practice at home. I practiced with 3 pound weights every other day to work on my biceps, triceps and shoulders. It was then that I noticed a dramatic improvement in my arm balance skills.
- Understand the importance of bandhas- Bandha which is Sanskrit for the word “lock” is the contraction of the flow of energy into a specific area of the body. Root locks or Mula Bandha locks, is the locking of the pelvic floor muscles in women and the perineum for men. This is a means to stabilize your pose when you’re in a handstand or any other arm balance. There’s also Uddiyana Bandha or belly lock which is the contraction of the abdomen into the ribcage. It’s best to do this on a light stomach. I practiced the half-moon pose without bandhas, and literally stumbled to the ground. Then I tried it with bandha locks and what a difference! It’s literally like glue at the bottom of your feet or hands.
- Dabble in martial arts- In a lot of ways, yoga and martial arts are very similar. Of course, fighting skills is not something that is involved in yoga, but the power and energy are the same. In yoga, life-force energy is known as prana, but in Chinese martial arts it’s known as chi. Taking a Tai-Chi class can really help you understand how to harness that energy.
- Build your core nice and strong- There are several exercises you can incorporate in your yoga practice to help build a strong core. Plank and the Side Plank Pose can be tough but it really super charges your core. There’s also other exercises such as ab crunches, hollow-body hold exercises, the bridge pose (or hip lifts) and many more. Try to work out a daily regimen to make sure you’re building your core daily.
- Hips and Hamstrings– There are a variety of arm balances and some require a certain level of flexibility in different areas. The Grasshopper Pose or Dragonfly Pose requires open hips. If your hips are too tight, you will have a hard time getting your foot to stay on your arm. I know this may seems simple, but it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. If your hamstrings are very tight it’s very hard to walk your feet up so you don’t have to kick up with too much force. So sometimes you just have to be patient and wait.