The Practice: This sequence prepares your body for the intermediate arm balance Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose). With perseverance and a playful attitude, you'll progress toward the full pose.
Mind-Body Benefits: This sequence creates opening in your hips and is great for building core and upper-body strength. When your core is strong, you hold yourself taller and with more confidence. Arm balances don't happen overnight—if you can approach them with a sense of playfulness, you can learn to move toward a goal while enjoying the process.
Key Focal Points: As you move into the final pose, align your arms as you would in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Don't allow your shoulders to drop below
the elbows. Over time, this can lead to injury.
Tone Up: Arms and Core
Start with 3 rounds of Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A). Next, do 3 rounds of Surya Namaskar B; then incorporate Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) and Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). Engage your abdomen and lift your hip points so that you don't compress your lower back.
Hold each pose for 5 deep breaths, unless otherwise indicated.
Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemag.
1. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)
After your third round of Surya Namaskar B, step or jump your feet wide apart and come into Warrior II on your right side. Hug your right hip in toward the midline of your body; broaden your collarbones. After 5 breaths, inhale to come up; then do the other side.
2. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose), variation
Exhale as you bring the right hand to the floor or a block. Sweep the left arm behind you, holding right thigh. (Place back of the hand against your sacrum if you can't bind.) Inhale, come up; exhale, do second side.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Firmly press into the hands, hugging the outer arms in as you spread the shoulder blades. Press the creases of your hips straight back to lengthen your spine.
4. Plank Pose
Come into Plank. Press firmly through your hands and hug your outer arms in. See that your shoulders are over your wrists, your navel and waist are lifting, and your body is in one long line. Broaden your collarbones and your shoulder blades.
5. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
From Plank, exhale, shift your weight slightly forward, and bend your elbows alongside the torso. Inhale back up to Plank. Repeat 8 times, making sure that you don't bend your elbows past 90 degrees.
6. Bakasana (One-Legged Crane Pose), variation
From Plank Pose, pick your left foot up off the mat, allow the hip to externally rotate, exhale, and bring the knee toward the outer upper arm. Stay for 5 breaths; then come back to Plank Pose and switch sides.
7. Adho Mukha Svanasana
Come back to Down Dog, pressing the entire palm down. Hug your outer arms in and roll them down toward the ground. Press your thighs back to lengthen the spine fully.
8. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), variation
Bring your left foot forward into a Low Lunge. Bring both forearms onto the floor. If space allows, tuck your left shoulder under your left knee. Hug the inner thigh toward your shoulder; keep your chest broad. Do both sides, coming to Down Dog in between.
9. Adho Mukha Svanasana
Lift your kneecaps, draw the inner thighs back without rotating your knees, and lengthen your legs by pressing the center of your heels down into the mat.
10. Lolasana (Pendant Pose)
Lower your knees to the floor and place a block on either side of your hips. Plant your hands on the blocks and hug your thighs toward your chest. Bring one heel up to your sitting bone; then lower it. Repeat with the other heel. Then try lifting both feet at once.
11. Dandasana (Staff Pose), variation
Sit back down and swing your legs around until they are stretched out in front of you. Plant your hands on the blocks, exhale, and lift your hips, shifting them slightly back. Pick up one heel, then the other. If you can, lift both heels at once, and then release.
12. Dandasana, variation
From Dandasana, bend your left knee and hold on to your left foot. Draw the leg up and back until you can tuck your left shoulder underneath your left leg. Hug the inner thigh toward the shoulder and keep your chest wide.
13. Dandasana Pickup
From the previous pose, plant your hands next to your hips. Keep hugging your inner thigh toward your shoulder; then press down, straighten your elbows, and lift your hips and extended leg.
14. Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)
Cross your right ankle over the left and straighten your legs as much as possible. Squeeze your left shoulder with your inner thighs. Press your hands down and pick up your hips. Shift your upper body into the shape of Chaturanga. Try your second side.
15. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Lie on your back. Press through both feet; lift your hips. Press your outer upper arms down. Draw your tailbone toward the backs of your knees to lengthen your low back. Exhale and slowly lower down.
16. Reclined Twist
Drop the knees to the right and stretch your arms out along the floor. Look over your left shoulder. Hold your left knee with your right hand. Repeat on the other side and then relax for at least 5 minutes in Savasana (Corpse Pose).
A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemag.