Kathryn Budig Challenge Pose: Scorpion in Handstand
Practice the unique combination of flexibility, strength, and balance required by Scorpion.
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Scorpion is one of the most popular poses requested to work on during my inversion workshops, and for a great reason—it’s amazing! This posture combines flexibility, strength, and balance. You need plenty of relaxed breath and a sense that the only moment that matters is the current one you’re in—this is where the full expression of the pose comes from. Like all Challenge Poses, you can start this posture at the wall so you can build your strength and flexibility before you add the balance. I’ve broken this down in Handstand, but look for the Forearm Balance version soon! Remember to keep your backbend even. It’s easy to focus on getting your feet to your head but for most people it makes the lower back collapse and often causes pain. Keep your core engaged and lower back lifting, even as you get deeper into the pose. Remember the “stinger” move is the final part of the posture. A scorpion won’t sting unless it has to, so create a soft curl and bring those toes in for the grand finale!
Before we add the backbend let’s review the Handstand. Depending on the depth of your backbend and proportions, you’ll have to play around with how far you take your fingertips from the wall. Roughly 8-12 inches is a good place to explore. Just remember you want to be close enough to the wall so that your feet touch when you kick up without throwing it all into your lower back. Once you kick up into your Handstand separate your feet hip-width apart and flex your feet. Stretch your heels up the wall so you can engage your lower belly feel the elongation of your low back. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and keep this action present through out all of the steps.
Pay careful attention to keep your arms straight, inner elbows expanding, and upper outer arms firming in so you can take the weight out of your upper trapezius. Treat your arms like the outer part of the cookie and your chest and heart like the creamy, soft center. Melt your chest down and begin to pull it forward through your arms toward the wall is if you were trying to smile your collarbone open from shoulderhead to shoulderhead. Take your gaze forward and lift your chin. Slowly slide your feet down the wall, trying to press the soles into the wall and your lower back lifting toward your heels with your belly engaged.
Keep the melting action in your chest and your gaze upward and forward as you bend one knee and place that foot’s toenails against the wall. Bend your second knee and place the opposite set of toenails against the wall so that your toes and inner heels touch. Keep your knees hip-width apart (together for a much deeper backbend but never wider than hip width—too much pressure on the low back). If this feels incredibly deep, stay here. If you’re still feeling supported in your core and low back, continue to pull your heart forward, hug your outer upper arms in, and gently bring the toes further down the wall toward the ground. Press your toes into the wall to help you deepen the curl in your chest. Perhaps practice taking one foot away from the wall by engaging your hamstring and, with time, bringing the second foot away form the wall to enjoy a glorious moment of balance!
The best way to experience balance in this pose is by following Step 3 and working your feet away from the wall slowly, one at a time. If you have a solid Handstand practice away from a wall, I find that doing a bent knee pike is the most useful way to get into Scorpion. (Look for a future Challenge Blog post on this soon)! The major keys to remember when getting into this pose through a balanced Handstand is to take your time! Make sure your arms are firm first. Keep your legs engaged and hugging tightly together. Before you add anything with your legs, begin the melting process from step two as you take your gaze forward and up. Begin to bend your knees and spread your toes. You want to keep your backbend even so that it doesn’t all sit in the upper or lower chest. Too much in the lower back will toss you over into full Urdhva Dhanurasana and too much in your chest without proper bending of your knees will pull you back to your feet. The goal is to keep your chest and knees bending in sync. The final touch is engaging your hamstrings to bring the “stinger” in toward your head. This will feel like a deep bending of your knees. Keep the toes spreading!
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and is currently writing Rodale’s The Big Book of Yoga which releases on October 30th. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; or on her website.