This intricate arm balance relies on arm, core, and leg strength, balance, and spinal and hip flexibility. Miami Vinyasa and Vedanta teacher Rina Jakubowicz shows you how to warm up and take flight.
Reclined Figure Four
Start with gentle hip stretches.
Come onto your back and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Thread your arms around the back of your left leg and gently pull in, making sure to maintain a neutral pelvis and a natural lumbar curve. Hold for about 10 breaths and then switch sides.
See also Open-Your-Hips Flow Video
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, variation
Ardha Matsyendrasana, variation
This variation of Half Lord of the Fishes Pose will help you find the core strength and spinal flexibility you’ll need for the final pose, while taking you into a deeper hip opener.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, buttocks supported on a folded blanket if you need more help shifting your pelvis forward and sitting up tall. Bend your left knee and slide your left foot close to your left buttock. Then bring the ankle of your right foot onto your left thigh. Inhale to plant your left hand on the floor behind you while lengthening the spine. Exhale to twist to your left and hook your right elbow on the sole of your right foot. Hold for 10 breaths, then exhale to release, and switch sides.
See also Try a New Twist on Twists
Four-Limbed Staff Pose
Build full-body awareness and arm strength in this pose. You’ll need them to execute Dragonfly.
From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, inhale to bring your shoulders over your wrists and your and heels over the balls of your feet for Plank Pose. Push through your heels to engage your legs and the whole front of the body. Press firmly into the hands and on an exhalation, lower your body, elbows tucked in by your sides, until your shoulders line up with your elbows and you’re parallel to the floor. There’s a tendency in this pose to collapse the chest and stick up the sitting bones. Instead, keep your tailbone moving toward your heels and your legs very active, spiraling slightly inward. Draw your navel in toward the spine, keep the sternum slightly lifted, and gaze a few inches in front of you. If you can’t support yourself with your arms, bring your knees to the floors for a Four-Limbed Staff Pose variation. Stay in either pose for 10 deep breaths.
Practice Crow Pose to learn your own body leverage in arm balances and continue to build upper body strength.
From Tadasana, squat with your feet a few inches apart. Your heels will likely lift. Separate your knees wider than your hips and plant your elbows to the inside or your inner knees. Separate your hands shoulder-width apart and lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Make a 45-degree angle with your upper arms. Shift your weight forward, from the balls of your feet into your hands. Squeeze your inner thighs toward your arms and begin to lift your feet off the ground, one at a time at first. If you are ready to go farther, try placing your knees higher up on your arms and, with an inhalation, lift both feet off the floor and straighten the arms as much as you can to come into Crane Pose (Bakasana). In either pose, keep the gaze on the floor a few inches in front of you. Push the floor away, resisting gravity, in Crow and all arm balances. Try to stay here for 5 breaths.
Similar to Crow, Eight-Angle Pose helps you find your tipping point in arm balances.
In this asana, you have to engage the legs and inner thighs, as well as the core, to stay light on your hands. From Sukhasana (Easy Pose), lift your right leg and scoop your right shoulder or upper arm under the right leg. Plant your right hand to the inside of your right foot, but make sure the hand is in front of your left leg. Press into your right foot to shift your weight forward and plant both hands, shoulder-width apart, on the floor a few inches in front of you. Cross your left ankle over the right, hooking ankles. Squeeze your inner thighs together, around your right arm. On an inhalation, press your hands into the floor and lift your hips. On an exhalation, simultaneously bend your elbows and straighten your legs out to the right. Make sure your elbows don’t go lower than your shoulders or out to the sides. Try to hold for 5 breaths before switching sides.
Start in the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose variation that you were in before, twisting to your left. Then place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart and beside your left hip. Start to shift your weight into your hands, lifting your legs up so that the sole of your left foot is flat on the floor and the sole of your right foot is on top of your right upper arm. Place the right foot as high up on the right arm as you can. Slowly start to lean forward, shifting more weight into your hands. Lift your hips and find a 45-degree angle with your arms. Press your right foot down into your right tricep as you lift the left leg and extend it to the right. Keep your left hip off your left elbow from the very beginning, supporting yourself with your core instead. Hold for 5 breaths, or as long as you can, before switching sides.
See also Arm Balances
About Rina Jakubowicz
Rina Jakubowicz is a bilingual yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner based in Florida. She is the founder and owner of Rina Yoga, which now has three studios in Miami, and teaches there and at events worldwide, including Yoga Journal LIVE, the Glow Yoga Festival in Puerto Rico, and Feria Mujer in Chile. She is the yoga expert on Univision’s Spanish language music television series Tu Desayuno Alegre, the host of Health & Wellness Channel’s YOUnity Yoga daily morning show, and the creator of a pioneering yoga curriculum for children and teens called Super Yogis’ Schoolhouse.