In yoga, some arm balances — specifically, those poses where only your arms are in contact with the floor — can seem intimidating and even impossible to beginners or to those who aren’t used to activating the strength of their upper bodies. Not only do you have to hold yourself up with the strength of your arms and core, but you also have to somehow figure out how to balance out the weight of your whole body too!
Luckily, arm balances are not just for advanced yogis. No matter how experienced or inexperienced you may be, you can learn how to do them. Everybody is different, and while some people may be able to master them in as little as a a week, for others it could take months or even years.
If you’re just stepping into arm balances, here are some beginner tips you may want to consider.
Not all arm balances involve balancing on just the arms. Poses like plank, dolphin plank, side plank and even good old chaturanga dandasana are all considered arm balances, but these all involve keeping the feet on the ground as well. They do, however, challenge the upper body and core, which is exactly what you need if you want to work up to balancing solely on your arms. Making simpler arm balances like these a regular part of your practice will help you build the strength and confidence you’ll need to seamlessly lift yourself up from the floor with the power of your arms at some point in the future.
Help Your Hands
Arm balances can be quite tough on the hands and wrists, so if you experience any weakness or pain, make sure to speak to your doctor first in case you have reason to lay off the arm balances. If it’s safe to do so, consider doing some helpful hand, finger, and wrist exercises to help strengthen and improve your range of motion. Check out this previous Yogi’s Journal post for a few exercises that can help strengthen your yogi hands.
Go for Crow
Once you feel confident enough about the strength of your upper body and wrists, you may want to start with a modified crow pose. Crow pose (bakasana, pictured above) is probably the most basic arm balance to practice if you’re looking to eventually take your feet right off the floor, making it great for beginners. After warming up, you can place a pillow beneath your head, squat down, and practice placing your knees on the back of your arms as you spread your fingers wide on the ground and play around with balancing your weight. For a modified crow pose, you don’t have to take your toes off the ground just yet. When you’re ready, however, you can take one toe off the ground until you feel confident enough to take both off!
Remember that yoga is not necessarily about mastering certain poses. It’s really about discovering new potential in yourself and getting deeply in touch with your own body. In our everyday lives, we spend so much of our time sitting or standing or walking — often only using our upper bodies to grab or hold onto things in front of us that aren’t all that heavy. Arm balances can give you the opportunity to learn about how your body works as you continue to experiment with unifying the strength of your upper body muscles and the calmness of your mind.
Feeling courageous? Try working your way up to supported headstand next!
Image (edited) via rcvictorino