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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

LIFT AND SEPARATE (figure 4)

Like Parsva Bakasana, Eka Pada Koundinyasana I is a twist, but it's one in which your legs go their separate ways. Come into it from a standing position. First bend your knees as if to squat, then take your left knee to the floor. Turn your left foot so it points to the right and sit on top of it. Cross your right foot over your left thigh and place it, sole down, beside your left knee. Your right knee should point toward the ceiling.

To twist, bring your left waist, side ribs, and shoulder around to the right. Place your left upper arm across your right thigh and slide your left outer armpit down the outside of the thigh. Use actions similar to those you used in Parsva Bakasana to maximize your twist and make good contact between your left upper arm and right outer thigh. Maintaining this contact high on the arm and far to the outside of the thigh is the secret to the pose.

To place your hands on the floor, first straighten your left elbow and put your left palm down. (You may need to lean to the right to bring your hand all the way down.) To place your right hand, carefully lift both hips without losing the left-arm-to-right-thigh placement, lean even more to the right, and put your right hand on the floor. Your hands should be shoulder width apart, with your middle fingers parallel to each other. Most of your weight will still be on your knees and feet.

Without losing contact between your left arm and your right outer thigh, lift your hips so you can flip your left foot and stand on the ball of the foot, heel up. Next, lift your left knee off the floor so most of your weight is on your feet. Lift your hips a little higher and start shifting your weight to bring your whole trunk above and between your hands with the midline of the trunk parallel to your middle fingers. Leaning your weight slightly forward, bend your left elbow a little, then tilt your head and shoulders a bit toward the floor. This should leverage your right foot up in the air. When your right foot is up, lean your weight farther forward until your left foot becomes light, then lifts up.

To finish the pose, straighten both knees simultaneously. Lift the left leg until it's parallel to the floor. Bending your left elbow more, lift your right foot higher, and reach out through the balls of both feet. Adjust the height of your right shoulder so it's the same as the left. Lift your chest to bring your torso parallel to the floor. Breathing smoothly, hold the pose for 10 seconds or longer, then repeat it on the other side.

STEP FORWARD (figure 5)


Of all the arm balances in this sequence, Eka Pada Koundinyasana II requires the most strength. To come into it, start in Adho Mukha Svanasana, hands shoulder width apart. Step your left foot far forward, past the outside of your left arm, and place it on the floor well in front of your left hand. Bend your left elbow and twist your trunk to the right, dropping the left shoulder and the whole left side of the torso as low as possible on your inner left thigh. Pressing your thigh toward your body, slide your left upper arm and shoulder as far as you can underneath the back of the left thigh just above the knee. Place the back of your thigh as high up as possible on the upper arm.


Keeping your weight centered approximately between your hands, start to creep your left foot forward along the floor so more and more of the weight of the leg comes onto the arm; let the left foot naturally move a little to the left as you do this. When you can't walk the foot any farther forward without lifting it off the floor, straighten the knee as much as you can, powerfully reaching the foot forward and out to the left side.

Bending both elbows, shift your weight far forward between your hands until you can lift your back leg. Lift strongly until that leg is parallel to the floor; then, keeping the knee extended, press straight back through the ball of your foot.

Lift your chest until your trunk is parallel to the floor, pressing strongly down through your hands to help maintain this position. Lift your head and look forward, keeping your eyes and brow soft. Breathe evenly. Hold the pose for 10 seconds or longer, then repeat it on the other side.

After you finish a good arm balance practice, you'll probably feel exhilarated, excited about improving more next time, yet humble in the realization that there's more to learn. This humility, even as you achieve one breakthrough after another, is perhaps the greatest lesson these poses have to offer.

A research scientist and Iyengar-certified yoga teacher, Roger Cole, Ph.D., specializes in human anatomy and in the physiology of relaxation, sleep, and biological rhythms. For more information, see http://rogercoleyoga.com.



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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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