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Arm Balance Yoga Poses

Master Class with Kathryn Budig: Firefly (Tittibhasana)

Fire up your core strength as you fly into Tittibhasana.

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Tittibhasana is a demanding pose. It requires a good deal of strength in your core, hip flexors, and arms to lift your pelvis high and bring your thighs parallel to the floor. It’s a pose that asks you to give a lot, so I recommend saving it for days when your energy is high and you feel really strong. But see if you can soften your mental approach to the pose.

You can do this in two ways. First and foremost, maintain your connection to your breath throughout the sequence. Second, focus on manifesting the actual name of the pose—Firefly. We all have an inner light waiting to be fired up. To shine this light around you, you need to access the energy within you. So, compact your hips up into the pose, recycling energy into yourself, as you extend and reach the legs out into space, inviting energy to shine out. You’ll also feel a nourishing energy as the legs hug the arms. As you squeeze in with the legs, imagine that you draw this nourishing energy in. As you extend the legs out, imagine that your light shines brighter, making an offering. Confidence will build along with ease and lightness in the posture. As you take flight, you’re likely to find that you’ve been shining all along.

See also Yogapedia: 4 Steps to Lift Into Firefly Pose

4 Steps to Firefly Pose

Before You Begin

Being your practice by warming up your legs, hips, and core with a few rounds of Sun Salutation. Take Cat-Cow Pose after your first Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Then continue by weaving the following poses into your Sun Salutation vinyasa: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) with the back heel lifted, and High Lunge. After your final Down Dog in the last round of your Sun Salutes, take Malasana (Garland Pose) for 5 to 10 breaths to open your lower back and spine. Then come back to Down Dog and continue with the following sequence.

1. Low Lunge, variation

This Low Lunge variation opens your hips and begins to prepare your arms and legs for Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose). From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands and drop your left knee to the floor. Shift your right foot several inches to the right and place both forearms down onto blocks or, if you can release all the way, onto the floor to the inside of your right leg. Keep your left toes curled under and your hips low. Without lifting your hips, straighten the left leg. Extend your heart forward while you release the shoulders and base of the neck away from your ears.

Dip the right shoulder behind your right leg, hold the right calf muscle with the right hand, and bow your heart down, pushing into the calf to move your right shoulder deeper behind the leg. Keep your right shoulder in this position as you place both palms on the mat shoulder-width apart, as though you were positioning your hands for Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Move your chest forward as you would in Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and breathe here for 8 breaths. To release, step back into Chaturanga and then move with your breath through Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) and Downward-Facing Dog before repeating this pose on the left side.

2. Bug Walk

You’ll continue to open your hips as you encourage more mobility along your spine in Bug Walk, a standing variation of Tittibhasana. From Down Dog, walk your feet toward your hands, step the feet hip-width apart, and fold into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Bend your knees and take both arms between your legs, wrapping your arms around the outside of the shins and placing the palms on your feet, with the fingers and toes pointing in the same direction. If this is too intense, keep your hands behind your calves.

Once you’ve set up your torso and arms, start to gently extend the backs of the legs, moving them toward straight. Extend the sternum and gaze forward, keeping your neck soft. At this point, you’ll look like a turtle poking its head out into the world to see what’s going on. You may want to stay right where you are now and simply enjoy the opening in your lower back and hamstrings; or, if you feel relaxed and connected with your breath, you can take yourself for a little walk. Keeping everything in position and starting with your right foot, walk around in a circle. When you come back to your starting point, lift the left foot first and walk yourself around in the opposite direction. Then slowly release your arms and torso from between your legs and fold into Uttanasana for 8 to 10 breaths. From here, step back to Chaturanga and then move through Up Dog and Down Dog. Then step or hop to the top of your mat into Uttanasana.

3. Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose), preparation

This preparatory position brings your body weight onto your arms, setting up your torso and legs for flight. Bend your knees, take the arms between your legs, and push your hands, one at a time, into your calves to move your shoulders behind your legs. Fold here as deeply as possible while remaining comfortable. Place your palms on the mat, shoulder-width apart. Hug your shoulders with your inner thighs and bend your knees to slowly lower the hips.

Lift your right foot off the floor, keeping the knee bent as you hug your inner thighs toward the midline of your body. Then lift your left foot from the floor, keeping the knee bent and your gaze forward. Round the upper back on an exhalation, as you would in Cat Pose. Shine bright from within through your breath—you’re almost there! If you’re at your edge, bend your elbows to release, sitting on the floor behind you. Then move into Balasana (Child’s Pose) to rest before finishing your practice. If you’re still feeling strong, stay balancing on your hands to lift and open into Firefly from here.

4. Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)

Fire up the strength in your core and hip flexors and pull your energy in toward the midline of the body by hugging your inner thighs around your arms. Keep your gaze and the weight of the body moving slightly forward—this will help you lift your pelvis away from the floor. At the same time, exaggerate the rounding of your upper back—this will help you activate your core and keep your legs parallel to the floor.

From there, press your palms deeply into the ground to straighten your arms. Relax your eyes and continue to breathe. Feel the bright sensation of lightness that comes from connecting to your internal strength through your breath as you fly in Tittibhasana. Hold for 8 breaths, and then bend your knees to gently set your feet down in front of you and fold forward into Uttanasana.

To Finish

Finish your practice by releasing any tension that’s developed from this strong pose by moving with your breath through Chaturanga and Up Dog, and then back to Down Dog for 3 to 5 breaths. With your belly relaxed and your spine long, bend your knees and rest in Child’s Pose for 1 minute.

Then, lift your torso and sit in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with your thighs together, big toes touching and heels apart. Take a moment to observe the powerful effect of this pose and feel gratitude for the opportunity to explore the brightness of a Firefly.

Also watch the Yogapedia Video: Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana)

Kathryn Budig is a vinyasa flow teacher who is based in Los Angeles.