Benefits Strongly activates the forces of both prana and apanato balance creativity and dissolution in the mind—setting the foundation for an open and receptive state of consciousness; strengthens your shoulders, arms, abdominals, and hips flexors; develops the coiling action of the spine, which is crucial for stability in countless other postures; increases balance, focus, and agility.
Round your upper back as if to press your spine up between your shoulder blades, spreading them wide. Keep your knees against the backs of your arms, and empty yourself of breath. As you begin an inhalation, draw up with a strong coiling action in your lower spine. Initiate this action from your abdominals, rolling your pubic bone up toward your navel and your navel up toward your solar plexus (the dense tangle of nerves that sits just beneath your diaphragm on the front of your spine). As you ascend, allow your knees to slide up the backs of your arms. It may take several breaths to achieve full height, but keep working with your breath sequentially: Pause as you exhale, and lift as you inhale.
Keep your knees level, and resist the temptation to “climb” up your arms by pressing into them with your knees—this will interfere with properly engaging your abdominals. Avoid engaging your hip flexors until your knees are all the way above your elbows. If you cannot get your knees above your elbows, just hold the posture as high as you can. (You will get higher in time.)
Once your knees come up to the backs of your shoulders, allow your hips to settle down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep pulling your feet up into your navel, and sustain a sense of floating. Lift your head, and gaze forward (or down toward the floor for balance). Each time you inhale, sustain the engagement of your abdominals and the coiling action of your spine. Each time you exhale, wrap your Lotus a little tighter, press your hands even more strongly into the floor, and try not to drop weight into your knees. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
To exit the posture, begin exhaling and allow your knees to slide back down your straightened arms. Alternatively, you can bend your elbows a little, push off strongly with your knees on the start of an exhalation, undo the Lotus in the air, straighten your legs, and land in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) empty of breath.
Stay Safe One of the risks posed by this posture is falling and injuring yourself. In order to prevent this, keep pressing your hands firmly into the floor with equal pressure at all times. Improve your balance by keeping your gaze fixed firmly at a single point on the floor, just a few feet in front of you; and always be present and focused on your breath.
About Our Pro Teacher and model Ty Landrum is director of the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. He teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the contemplative style of his mentors, Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman. With a PhD in philosophy, Ty has a special touch for explaining the theory of yoga with color and creativity. As a teacher, he’s passionate about sharing the brilliance of yoga with anyone willing to learn (for more information, go to tylandrum.com).