Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Challenge yourself! Join Liz Arch for an arm-balance workshop at Yoga Journal LIVE! Florida, Sunday, November 13 (get your ticket now!), then sign up for her 6-week online course to master more Challenge Poses.
Move step by step with power and balance into Ganda Bherundasana.
Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and upper back; tones the abdomen and spine; develops a sense of balance and confidence; opens the throat chakra and strengthens the muscles in the back of the neck
Begin in Tabletop, stacking your shoulders over your wrists, and your hips over your knees. Spread your fingers wide, root through your fingertips, and press the floor away through your palms without rounding your upper back. Take a full cycle of breath as you lengthen your spine and soften your gaze down between your hands.
On an inhalation, reach your left leg straight back, keeping the hips square and the inner thigh wrapping skyward. Point the toes of your back foot. Keep your neck long and your gaze soft as you reach the crown of the head toward the front of the room. Actively press the floor away without rounding your upper back, and gently corset the ribs in.
On an exhalation, engage your abdominals, press off the ball of your right foot or toes, and shift your shoulders forward past your wrists. Engage your arms as you would in Chaturanga and lower your chin toward the floor. Keep your shoulders drawing away from your ears and maintain length in your neck.
With control, lift your left leg skyward, engaging the quadriceps, glutes, and inner thigh. Then, press off the ball of the right foot to lightly kick this second leg up toward the sky. While the glutes should be active, resist the urge to clench them so strongly that the legs externally rotate—focus instead on engaging your inner thighs to keep the hips neutral and the energy rising up through the feet. Recruit your core muscles to support your lower back as you move into the inversion. It’s important to place little to no weight on the chin and to not thrust the head back or allow the shoulders to collapse. Visualize the energy rising toward the feet rather than descending into the chin. Hold the pose for 3–5 breaths. Release by exiting with control back to Tabletop.
For a supported variation, place a block under each shoulder as you kick up into the pose. The blocks help support your body weight and reduce the risk of injury and strain in the neck and shoulders. Starting in Tabletop, place a block directly in front of the fingertips of each hand. Follow steps 1 and 2. On step 3, shift forward and place your shoulders on the blocks: The added height and support of the blocks will allow your chin to hover weightlessly above the floor. Once the shoulders are firmly planted on the blocks, move into step 4.
This challenging inversion can be a literal pain in the neck if done without proper warm-up, form, and muscular engagement. The weight of the pose should not rest in your neck or chin; instead, the shoulders bear the majority of the load, with the core and back extensor muscles playing an integral role in supporting the spine. As you resist gravity, direct the energy of the pose up the length of your spine toward your feet rather than down into your chin and the floor.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Liz Arch is the creator of Primal Yoga, a fusion of vinyasa yoga with the artistry of kung fu and the grace of tai chi. She has more than 10 years experience in various yoga and martial-arts styles, including Northern-Style Kung Fu, Yang-Style Tai Chi, and Self-Healing Qi Gong. She is the West Coast Director for the Purple Dot Yoga Project, a nonprofit that raises awareness about domestic violence, and she travels the world teaching. Learn more at lizarch.com.