Kathryn Budig breaks down how to approach yoga’s closest thing to breakdance move, the arm balance Grasshopper.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but here goes: I have Bieber Fever.
Yup, I got bit by the Justin Bieber bug when one of my best friends forced “Somebody to Love,” the video Bieber did with Usher, on me. Now I can’t get the song out of my head, and find myself walking around, bobbing my head with a random smile on my face. It’s pure pop sugar, but it’s such a feel-good song–not to mention that it has some pretty amazing break-dance moves.
People often tell me that I’d be a good break-dancer because of the asanas I work on regularly. One of best poses that come to mind for this is what we at YogaWorks call Grasshopper. There’s a lot of debate about the correct name of this pose, which is basically a Revolved Flying Pigeon, but it really does look like a grasshopper. When first seen, the pose is completely confusing. Limbs seem to be sticking out at all the wrong places. When broken down step by step, however, it all fits neatly. Like a puzzle of Justin Bieber.
OK, I kid. Seriously, though, this pose will make any breakdancer green with envy. And if you can work this pose and sing “Somebody to Love” at the same time, I will be thoroughly proud and impressed.
Step One: Take a seat with a twist!
This is such a great example of how the most challenging postures start from the simplest root. Take a seat with your legs straight out in front of you. Cross the left ankle over the right knee, keeping the left foot flexed (it will dangle slightly off the side of the right leg). Place both hands behind you to help lift out of the lower back and into the upper chest. Bend the right knee, drawing the externally rotated hip closer to the chest. You’ll notice that it’s easy to collapse into the lower back as you do this, so keep pushing into the hands to keep the chest buoyant. Keep bending the right knee until you reach a place where you can keep the chest upright and feel a nice amount of sensation in your left hip. Lift the left arm straight up into the air and begin to twist toward the right side. Depending on your body’s ability to twist, you might just place the left forearm to the sole of the left foot that’s resting on the right knee. If you can manage a deeper twist, begin to work above the elbow and, with time, the armpit, into the sole of the foot. Inhale, lift your heart. Exhale, push the left triceps muscle into the foot to help with the twist. Root into the right hand down to continue lifting the spine. Take 8 solid breaths here and then switch sides. Keep working this variation to open your hips and experience a great, deep twist. This IS the pose, just sitting on your buns!
Step Two: Spice up your Chair Pose
We’ve all practiced Revolved Chair Pose hundreds of times, but now it’s time to step it up and add a hip opener to it! Begin standing with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Lift your left foot as you externally rotate the left hip open. Place the foot, at the ankle, onto your right leg, just above the knee. Keep the foot flexed and slightly sticking out past the right thigh. Find a gazing point for balance and bend the right leg, bringing the weight into your right heel. Bring your palms together in front of your heart and look down to the ground on the left. Slowly twist to the right from your upper ribs, reaching your left elbow to the sole of your left foot (use the forearm if the elbow is too intense). Push the elbow into the foot as you press the palms together to deepen the turn of the chest. Keep the left hip firming in as the right knee drops lower. With time, if you can get the armpit close to the sole of the foot, drop the left hand down to the outside of the right foot, and extend the right arm straight up into the air. Take 5-8 breaths here and do your best to exit the pose with balance and grace.
Step Three: Be stealthy like a grasshopper
Repeat step two, working as deeply into the twist as possible. The best way to know if you’re ready to try the arm balance is knowing that the sole of the foot must go above your elbow; otherwise you won’t have a shelf for your foot when you tip up into the pose. If you’re not there yet, keep working steps one and two until the body opens up. Trust me, it will happen, just be patient.
If you are getting the foot above the elbow, continue on from here. Look down to the right side. Keep sinking deeper into your right leg until you’re close enough to place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on the ground to the right side. You may need to readjust the left foot, but keep the sole above the elbow.
Take the gaze past your fingertips and begin to lean into Chaturanga arms. The key is to create a shelf to stand on, which means you need to bend into a full 90-degree angle. (Imagine there is something delicious on the ground that you want to take a bite out of.)
As you reach the full angle, keep the elbows squeezing in and take a nice stand on the back of your left arm. Keep looking forward and draw your right foot tight into your bottom. This may be a great place to stay, or you can extend the leg straight. Don’t try to move it around, all you need to do is straighten from the knee cap.
At first you can rest the outer part of your right thigh on your left arm, but with time as you gain more core strength, the actual full pose calls for a straight back leg hovering right behind the elbow. Work all the variations first, and you’ll get there with time!
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ABOUT KATHRN BUDIG
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 author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on her website.