Welcome to the most challenging Challenge Pose yet. This posture is lovingly referred to as Funky Pincha, which is a hybrid blend of Pincha Mayurasana and Tripod Headstand. The past two weeks have been dedicated to these two poses. My request is that you visit the past two posts and become extremely familiar with each posture and its prep poses. Remember as you learn that there is absolutely no rush. I often have students take some serious tumbles or experience major road bumps on their first try toward an advanced pose. They often get frustrated and want to know why they can't do it. I tell them plain and simple--because it's advanced and you've never tried to do it before. Oh yes, and that yoga is here to keep us humble and remember that all good things come to those who trust and practice patience.
Take your time to build the strength and foundation you need to step forward into these funkier variations. Remember, a huge goal of yoga is ahimsa, or non-violence to the body. It can also translate to patience--trusting that your body will perform advanced asanas not necessarily when you want it to, but once it is truly aligned, strong, and ready. Once you are practicing both Pincha Mayurasana and Tripod with ease, then it's time to funk it up.
Step one and two of this challenge are fine to work in collaboration with the past two weeks, but please save the final touches for days where you are feeling strong, supported and, well, funky.
Make that Plank funky.
The major key to this pose is the set up of the arms. Start on your hands and knees. Place the right forearm down as if preparing for Pincha Mayurasana. Take the left palm flat so that the fingertips are inline with the right elbow. The arms are shoulder-width apart. Bend the left elbow to a 90-degree angle just like in Chaturanga: elbow over wrist, shoulder head inline with elbow. Straighten one leg at a time until you are in (Funky) Plank. Keep the gaze forward to extend the chest, hug the left elbow in over the wrist as the right shoulder head continues to lift. Scoop the tailbone, lift the kneecaps, and extend through the heels. Take 8 breaths and then rest in Child's Pose. Reverse the arm positioning and repeat these actions.
Quake-proof your building!
You know the set-up for your arms, now we have to test bearing weight. Start on your hands and knees again and repeat the arm set up from your Funky Plank. Curl the toes under, straighten the legs, and lift the hips. Walk the toes in toward the elbows, lifting your tail into Dolphin. Notice what happens as you get closer to your arms--the likelihood of the shoulders collapsing and tripod arm buckling are strong. This being said, with every breath remind yourself, "Pincha shoulder lifts, Tripod elbow hugs in." These constant reminders will keep the upper back solid and ready for the company of the inversion. Try 8 breaths held in your Funky Dolphin. You may stick with this step for quite some time before you add on. Make sure you can keep the lift and hug of the arms with a calm 8 breaths before you do. This will ensure safety and well-being in the pose!
Bust a move!
From Dolphin, lift the left foot off the ground and lightly place the bent knee onto the left tricep. Pull the heel tight toward your bottom and spread the toes. Continue to lift the hips high, balancing on the ball of the back foot and, if possible, balancing only on the big toe of the back leg. Keep reminding the left elbow to hug in to support the weight of the knee. Gently press the tricep into the knee to prevent from collapsing into the chest. Breathe for 8 breaths and rest or continue onto . . .
. . . the arm balance! Keeping the hips lifting high, walk the back foot in towards the right elbow until you reach your edge. Tilt the hips toward the shoulders and pull from the lower belly to lift the back foot off the ground. You may focus on simply hovering the foot, or continue the line of energy and extend the rear leg up and back as if you were trying to push someone away with the ball of the foot. Take a few breaths then come down and rest in Child's Pose.
Take a trip to Funkytown!
It is possible to enter Funky Pincha from the step before, but this requires a great amount of lower belly strength and shoulder stability. The more approachable entrance comes from the Dolphin variation. Walk the feet in as far as your body will comfortably go without collapsing into the upper back. Lift the right leg (opposite of the Tripod arm) up into the air, reaching like a Standing Split. Re-affirm the work of the shoulder--Tripod elbow in, Pincha shoulder lifting. Take small controlled kicks off the bottom foot toward the full inversion. Try not to donkey kick. The harder you kick, the more likely it is to collapse in the base. That being said, be very patient with this pose and trust that it will come when it should! Be safe and enjoy the challenge! Also, please practice this posture at the wall in the beginning--it's a bit like dealing with the Tower of Pisa, so dive into exploration and possibility.
Kathryn Budig is a Yogi, Yoga Teacher, Writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, Foodie and lover of her dog. Follower her on Twitter and Facebook or on her site.