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For Beginners: Lolasana

This simple yet demanding pose builds courage, poise, and confidence to explore more challenging arm balances.

By Peter Sterios

The Lift-Off

The second part of the pose involves lifting yourself off the floor and hovering above your mat. When the wrists, arms, and/or the abdominal muscles are weak, getting "lift-off" can be a challenge, and for many, frustrating to the point of intimidation. By breaking down the process step by step, you can approach your "edge"—the point of balance necessary to achieve this pose—without panic or despair. With consistent attempts over time, you will develop the strength and poise needed for a complete lift.

From your seated position, place your hands on the floor beside your thighs, about halfway between the knee and ankle. With an exhalation, press down into your hands, fully extending your arms, and slowly lift your knees and buttocks up from the floor, keeping weight on the tops of the feet and the hands. Lift as high as you can. When you reach your maximum, very slowly lean forward until you feel the abdomen contracting. Stay here for two or three cycles of breath, holding the contraction in the belly, feeling the power in your fully extended arms.

This "training wheels" version of the pose may be practiced for weeks until your confidence increases. The ability to lift into the final pose will come from deepening the pull of the navel toward the spine and tucking the heels up into the buttocks. Avoid hopping and work slowly to develop this essential understanding.

The Swing of It

As the lift required to leave the floor is achieved, the final step in the pose is to lightly swing the legs to and fro like an earring. With concentrated effort, this final stage comes naturally. With the legs raised off the floor, suck the knees up higher and pull the feet back and forth through the arms. As the swing of your legs peaks, gravity will help initiate the movement back to center. As your knees drop, draw your buttocks back and pull your navel in strongly.

If your feet get stuck on your mat, move to a firm, smooth surface like a hardwood floor and place a folded blanket between your hands. By sliding the blanket back and forth with your feet, you can educate your abdomen and build strength.

Lolasana helps strengthen the wrists and hands, as well as the muscles of the back. It tones the abdomen and creates lightness in the legs. But most importantly, it builds the confidence, patience, and courage required for more challenging arm balances and for the turning of the unexpected crises in your life, both big and small, into wonderful opportunities for insight.

Peter Sterios is the director of Yoga Centre in San Luis Obispo, California, and can be reached at psterios@ix.netcom.com.

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