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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

ROUND UP (figure 2)


Before practicing Bakasana, move your crash pad in front of you; you're much more likely to tip forward than backward in this pose. Next, compact your body and get your arms in place. Squat with your feet together, then separate your knees a little. As you exhale, walk your hands forward on the floor and tilt your pelvis, side waist, and side ribs far forward between your thighs, just as in Malasana. Rounding your trunk deeply forward, pull your elbows back to bring your shoulders, outer armpits, and upper arms into contact with your shins as low on the shins as possible.

Next, place your hands flat on the floor about shoulder width apart and with your middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Your elbows should end up very close to the ground. Notice the point of contact between your upper arms and your shins. Shift this contact point as far around toward the outside of your shins as you can get it, and as high up and far back on your upper arms as possible. Then slide your upper arms a little closer to your ankles, pressing them firmly into your shins; maintaining this pressure, slide them up so the arm flesh rotates maximally outward on the arm bone. This will lock the arm muscles in place so they don't roll out of position when you're airborne.

Without sliding your arms along your shins, slowly lift your heels high off the floor, raise your buttocks several inches, and unbend your elbows a bit. Keeping your pelvis lifted, carefully shift your body weight forward and come higher up on your toes. If you get your center of gravity above the point midway between your hands, your feet will become very light. Lift one foot, then the other, off the floor. Your arms will still be bent, but you'll be balancing all your weight on them.

To finish the pose, bring the inner edges of your feet firmly together and press them strongly away from you, pulling their outer edges toward you. Compress your body into the tightest ball possible by drawing your heels toward your buttocks and your buttocks toward your heels and then contracting your abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and inner thigh muscles to bring your knees toward your chest and toward one another. As in Tittibhasana, draw your breastbone in toward your spine and round your spine. Exhaling, lift yourself high off the floor by pushing down firmly through your hands, moving your shoulder blades far apart, and straightening your arms as much as you can without letting your shins slide down. Lower your hips so your body becomes more horizontal; try to avoid the all-too-common nosedive position many beginners take in Bakasana. Finally, lift your head, gazing forward without strain. Remain in the pose for 10 seconds or longer, breathing evenly.

TWIST AND SHOUT (figure 3)

The key to Parsva Bakasana is twisting enough to place the outer edge of one upper arm far around the outside of the opposite thigh. Begin by standing with your feet together, then bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Take your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh. Soften your waist. Exhaling, twist your trunk to the right, bringing your left lower ribs across toward your right thigh as far as you can. Slide your left arm down the outside of the right thigh, bringing your outer armpit as close to the outer thigh as you can. Without sliding your arm back up, do a backbending action with your spine and draw your right shoulder back to twist your trunk more deeply.

Exhaling each time, repeat these twisting actions until you reach your maximum rotation. Then slide your left upper arm several inches toward your right hip and press it firmly against your right thigh; maintaining this pressure, draw the upper arm back toward your right knee without allowing the skin to slide. This will rotate the flesh of the upper arm outward, locking it in place. Once your arm is in position on your thigh, note the point of skin-to-skin contact. Try not to change it throughout the pose.

To place your hands on the floor, lower your pelvis until it's a few inches above your heels and straighten your left elbow. If your left hand reaches the floor, place it palm down. If not, tip your body to the right until you can put your palm down flat. Maintaining contact between your left upper arm and your right outer thigh, lean even more to the right until you can place your right hand on the floor. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and your middle fingers parallel. Most of your weight will still be on your feet.

Concentrate on maintaining the point of contact between your left arm and right thigh as you slowly lift your pelvis and shift it to the right, aiming to bring the middle of your abdomen above and between your hands. This is not the precise balance point, but if you get this close you'll probably be able to find the perfect position by feel. As you get close, the weight on your hands will grow, while that on your feet will decrease until they lift easily.

Now put the finishing touches on the pose. Keep your feet together and press out through their inner edges. Draw your heels toward your buttocks. Exhaling, soften your waist to prepare it to twist; then pull your left hip strongly down and lift both feet up. Your left arm may remain slightly bent, but straighten it as much as you can without allowing your legs to slide down. Straighten your right arm completely, lifting your right shoulder and allowing your spine to twist as you do so. Lift your chest, lift your head, and look forward. Breathe evenly and naturally. Hold the pose for 10 seconds or longer, then repeat it on the other side.

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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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