Almost every yoga pose has a distinct memory and personality for me. Some are dear friends that I look forward to catching up with while others make me want to dodge behind the nearest tree breath held until they pass by–hopefully unscathed and unnoticed.
One of the quirkiest personalities belongs to my beloved Bhujapidasana (Arm-Pressure Balance). I first saw this pose in my teacher training demonstrated effortlessly by Chuck Miller. My eyes may have rolled into my head while I tried to scoop my lower jaw off the ground and back into it’s natural position. The pose made NO sense. I attempted something that on some universe may have resembled the pose. Long story short–it took a ton of dedication in the mysore room to finally make friends, nay acquaintances with this posture.
After our bumpy courtship we grew to love each other. We rarely fight now, but it took discipline and ample time listening to each others needs to work things out. As you venture into this pose do just that–listen. Your body and the pose will tell you exactly what it needs every time you show up on the mat. Some days it will be the full expression and some days it will be that weird ‘other-universe’ version, but regardless–it will be what you need. Keep that patience and you too can move into a loving and supportive relationship with Bhujapidasana.
Cheers to the happy couple!
Step one: Extend your heart (and hips) to each other
Let’s start in Downward-Facing Dog. Step the right foot forward, in between the hands (pictured is left) and drop the back knee down. Place both forearms down to the inside of the right foot. If you struggle with this, place them onto blocks. Grab the right calf muscle with the right hand and bow the chest down as you work the shoulder behind the leg. Once it it neatly snuggled in–or simply as far as it will go–place the forearms down again, this time the right one to the outside of the right foot. Take the gaze forward, extending from the chest and, if possible, curl the left toes under lifting the back knee keeping the heel in line with the hip. Take 8 breaths. Release and switch sides.
Step two: Take a little walk in the park . . .
Standing with feet hip-width apart, come into a Forward Fold with a medium-sized bend in both legs. Reach both arms through the legs. Wrap them around the outer calf and place the palms onto the feet so that the fingers and toes point in the same direction. From this position, begin to work the legs straighter than they were before. Take 5 breaths. Keeping everything as is, take your gaze slightly forward and we’ll go for a little walk. Working in a circle, lift the right then left foot until you’ve walked around in a full circle. When you reach the front, turn around and reverse your circle to come back to the front. Once you’re there, gaze slightly forward holding everything as is, and jump up and forward 3 times, then jump up and backwards 3 times. Release the pose and shake it out. Feel the burn!
Step three: Test the water
Grab two blocks placing them shoulder-width apart at the lowest level. Stand a few inches in front of the blocks and come into a bent knee forward standing fold. Grab the right calf with the right hand. Pushing into the muscle, begin to work the shoulder back, eventually behind the calf. Repeat this action with the left side until you are equally snuggled in. Place the hands onto the center of the blocks pushing the heel of the hand down with the fingers gripping the edges for support. Squeeze the inner thighs around the shoulders to glue and look forward. Drop the hips until the heels of the feet lighten and balance is only on the tip of the toes. Continue to hug the inner thighs and squeeze the elbows in. Take 8 breaths and place the heels back down, lift the hips and come into standing forward fold to release.
Step four: Tie the knot
Repeat step 3. Once you’ve lifted the heels, keep the gaze forward and continue the hug of the inner thighs. This is the “arm-pressure” part of the pose (Bhujapidasana is referred to as Arm-Pressure Balance). Keep dropping the hips until the heels leave the ground as well. Working the hug of the inner thighs, start to push deeper into the blocks working toward straight arms. Round the upper back. These actions will help the feet get closer. If you can get them to touch, slip the right pinky toe over the left big toe to cross the ankles. Once tied in, keep rounding the back as you lift the hips and feet together. This will fire up the core and add height. Take 5-8 breaths and release.
Step five: Squeeze and fly off together!
Begin in a standing forward fold with the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Put a medium bend in both knees. Grab the right calf with the right hand and begin the snuggle process: Bow the chest as you push into the calf muscle to work the shoulder back. Repeat on the left side. Keep working right to left until you can’
t work the shoulders back anymore. Place the palms down flat, shoulder-width apart, fingertips pointing forward. Hug the inner thighs around the shoulders as you bend the knees deeper dropping the hips. Keep the gaze extending forward as the feet lighten up. Lift both feet and pause. Push the mat away working the arms toward straight as you round the upper back. Hug the thighs, bringing the feet closer together slipping the right pinky toe over the left big toe to cross the ankles. Continue rounding the back as you lift the hips and feet evenly. Take 8 breaths. Undo the ankles and pull back to Bakasana into Chaturanaga or release the ankles and come back into standing forward fold.
Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.