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Lift Off

Everyone's confidence could use a boost, and developing an arm balance practice is a great way to do it.

By Roger Cole

PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF
Before practicing arm balances, start with a few simpler poses, including Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana. But don't hold the strength poses too long, so you can conserve your energy for the arm balances.

Once you've awakened your torso, hip, and leg muscles, do three forward bending poses—Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), Malasana (Garland Pose), and Dwi Hasta Bhujasana (Two-Handed Shoulder Pose)—to prepare for the deep hip and spinal flexion required for our first arm balance, Tittibhasana.

Set up for Upavistha Konasana with your legs slightly closer together than usual to make its alignment more like that of Tittibhasana. Then fold forward into the pose. (Don't force the movement, because it can be hard on your spinal disks.) Hold this position for a minute or more.

Next, come into a preparatory variation of Malasana. Squat with your feet as close together as possible. (Keep your heels on the floor if you can; otherwise, support them on a folded mat.) Separate your thighs to make room for your trunk. Exhaling, tilt your pelvic rim, waist, and lower ribs forward between your thighs. Walk your hands far forward on the floor to elongate the front of your body.

From your next pose, Dwi Hasta Bhujasana, you'll move directly into Tittibhasana. In both poses, you'll tend to fall backward if you can't get your legs high up on your arms, so put a bolster or a couple of folded blankets behind you as a crash pad.

To come into Dwi Hasta Bhujasana, squat with your feet a little less than shoulder width apart. Tilt your pelvis forward and bring your trunk between your legs as you did in the Malasana variation. Then, keeping your trunk low, straighten your legs enough to lift your pelvis to about knee height. Bring your left upper arm and shoulder as far as possible underneath the back of your left thigh just above the knee, and place your left hand on the floor at the outside edge of your left foot, fingers pointing forward. Then repeat these actions on your right side.

The next step is to lift yourself off the floor, not by raw strength but by carefully shifting your center of gravity. Press your hands into the floor and slowly begin to rock your weight back, off your feet and onto your hands. Your feet will rest more and more lightly on the floor, and eventually lift off spontaneously. At that moment, your center of gravity will be exactly where it needs to be.

FLY HIGH (figure 1)

To make the transition from Dwi Hasta Bhujasana to Tittibhasana, keep your inner thighs as high on your arms as possible. With an exhalation, stretch your legs out as straight as you can, keeping your pelvis high to make your legs parallel to the floor. (There are two common versions of Tittibhasana, one with the legs nearly vertical, the other with the legs horizontal. We'll do the horizontal variation because it provides better preparation for Eka Pada Koundinyasana II.) Press the balls of your feet farther away from you than your heels, but pull your toes back toward you and spread them apart. Press the inner edges of your feet away from you and draw the outer edges slightly back.

To finish the pose, straighten your arms as much as possible. Move your breastbone back toward your spine, as if to make your chest concave; round your upper back; and move your shoulder blades as far apart as you can. (These actions will lift you higher.) Without tensing your neck, lift your head and gaze forward. Breathe slowly and hold the pose for 15 seconds or longer.

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Reader Comments

David Mullen

I enjoyed this site! I was directed here by my dear Yoga Instructor Keith Porteus!

kazi

i wnat to make my chets strong as it is hanging and creating wrong impression ?

Rafael

Where are the pictures?

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