The first time I saw Crow Pose (Bakasana), I was pissed that the pose even existed. It was surprising to me that yoga arm balances were even a thing. I didn’t know much about yoga, and arm balances hit me hard because I knew it would take a lot of practice to be able to achieve them one day.
I remember thinking, “Oh my stars, I will never be able to do this pose. How is it possible that in a class of twenty people, I’m the only one who can’t do it?” Everyone else lifted into it so seemingly easily. It was dumbfounding. If everyone else could do it, how hard could it actually be? Um, turns out the answer is pretty damn hard. And acknowledging that is crucial if you want to pursue these postures.
Yoga arm balances are flat out cool. We desperately want to be able to pull them off.
There are a lot of benefits to arm balances. But do they really deserve the amount of attention we give them? Are the benefits that valuable?
The answer is complicated. It all depends on your goals and what you think is worthy of your time and dedication. It also very much depends on your health. If you have chronic shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand injuries or pain, should yoga arm balances be a part of your practice?
Let’s examine the benefits first
- Strength. Yoga arm balances are highly effective in developing strength in the core, arms, hands, shoulders, wrists, and back. Being strong protects us and makes our bodies more efficient. Strength is important.
- Confidence. When something initially isn’t possible and we work for it, the biggest gift is the confidence in ourselves that we develop. When our hard work pays off, we feel really good about our dedication and commitment. It’s not so easy to appreciate the things that come easy. We begin to believe in ourselves in more meaningful ways.
- Learning from failure. To try, fail, try again, fail again, change your strategy, and eventually succeed is life changing. It helps us develop a mental toughness we can’t gain otherwise. Not giving up and being willing to alter our approach teaches us that we can accomplish our goals. The effort is necessary for success.
Addressing yoga arm balances and injury
Injuries are quite the teacher. It’s the rare adult who’s never had even a minor injury to contend with. Some injuries happen because of accidents. And others happen when we push ourselves too far or ignore what our bodies are warning us against. So how can someone with an injury still benefit from arm balances?
Postures are shapes. We contort our bodies constantly. Let’s take a look at Crow Pose. You can do the shape of the pose laying on your back and receive lots of benefits and information. It can also be done perching on a block or lifting only one foot to feel the strengthing actions necessary as we develop our muscle memory.
The most important thing is to let injuries heal. We have to learn from them and take a different approach to our practice to protect an injured area. Prioritizing our health and keeping ourselves safe is the choice we need to make to be able to continue to practice.
Reasons students crave arm balances
Obviously, not everyone cares about yoga arm balances. Lots of people do yoga for stress relief, restoration, and to stretch and move their bodies. Plenty of students don’t have arm balances and inversions as a part of their practice and they’re so good with that. But for those who do care, it’s important to know the reasons beyond the benefits stated above.
- Ego. You saw that coming. But we don’t need to always demonize our egos. Everyone has one and our egos can help motivate us to try new things and desire goal obtainment. Yoga arm balances are challenging, dynamic, and difficult postures. The ability to pull them off feels good. That’s really okay.
- The need to challenge ourselves. It is a need for many of us. We want to see what we’re capable of. Arm balances and inversions represent a challenge. They help us face our fears. They give us a sense of power over our bodies and control.
- The feeling we take with us after our practice. Trying new things has long-lasting effects. Being exposed to poses we’ve never tried is exciting and opens our minds to the vastness of a yoga practice. Overcoming obstacles is vital. And knowing we can do it is key.
The most important takeaway is knowing what we value and why. If this is a practice that’s important to you, stick with it. Seek out instructors who are experienced in teaching arm balances and be willing to change your approach. Remember the quote, “Practice and all is coming.” ~Sri K Pattabhi Jois