Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Join Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Carrie Owerko for our new online course Iyengar 201—a mindful and fun journey into a more advanced practice. You’ll learn different pose modifications and creative uses for props, all designed to help you work with physical and mental challenges. And you’ll walk away with the skills you need to adapt to whatever life throws at you, on and off the mat. Sign up now.
Adding variety to your favorite poses can be accessible, challenging, and invigorating, all at the same time. For example, in Salabhasana (Locust Pose), the arms are typically in extension behind the body with the hands near the hips. In the following variation, having the arms reach upward above the head makes the pose more exhilarating and expansive. This variation is also great if you have wrist issues or lack the strength in the arms that is necessary to lift the weight of the body away from the floor. The front of the body receives a wonderful stretch, and the whole body is fully engaged and toned. This wonderfully earthy, yet energizing backbend can also have a grounding effect on your nervous system. Plus, the belt is a great way to integrate your arms and legs to each other and to your spine, helping the pose feel both contained and expansive.
A Challenging Variation of Salabhasana
You will need: A belt
Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose) and place a belt around the arches of your feet. Make sure that the buckle of the belt is in between your two feet. Lie down in a prone position and bend your knees while holding the strap in both of your hands overhead. The belt should run up the median line of the back of your body. Revolve your outer upper arms forward and bring your elbows toward each other (they will tend to go wide, so try to keep them moving in).
With an exhalation, press your feet back into the strap and away from your buttocks. This action will begin to lift your elbows, shoulders, and upper thoracic spine away from the floor. Continue to rotate your outer upper arms forward. Take a few breaths and relax your eyes, cheeks, lips, and tongue.
With an exhalation, continue to press your feet into the belt as you lift your feet upward toward the ceiling. Keep your buttocks engaged and begin to straighten your legs.
Keep your outer elbows pointing forward and fully straighten your legs if possible. You might have to let loose a bit on the belt in order to do this. Take a few breaths and observe how your body moves as you breathe in the pose.
Gradually release the belt and rest while observing your heart rate and respiration. Observe how they synchronize and move together like excellent dance partners. After a few breaths, exhale and come down. Repeat once more, then roll to your side and come up.