I love arm balances and I'm always working on new ways to incorporate them into my practice and into my teaching. I've recently started teaching handstands, and it's become one of my favorite parts of the class. Handstands are so intimidating to a lot of students and it makes sense - I mean, how often are we upside down? But when they surrender, their practice grows. Here are five tips for understanding and approaching arm balances. Please share yours below!
1. Start with the core
Arm balances look like they're all about the upper body strength, but really it begins in the core. Poses like extended side angle will help develop the core so you can find a lift in arm balances. When you're in an arm balance like crow pose, shift your attention from your arms and shoulders to the intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs). See if you can engage them and pull your body even further away from the mat.
2. Protect the wrists
Be mindful about where you're putting weight in the hands. You want to press down into the fingertips, and bases of the fingers. There should be very little weight in the lower part of the palms. If you put weight there, you risk injuring the wrists.
3. Take baby steps
Think of learning arm balances like learning to ride a bike. You don't just jump on the bike and hope for the best (well, I suppose you could but you'd risk injury!). Instead, start with training wheels. In this video on how to jump back from crow pose, I first explain getting into crow. There is always the option to start with one foot off the mat, find your balance, and then try taking the second foot off the mat.
4. Watch your gaze
The drishti for most arm balances is not straight down. If you look straight down, you will probably come crashing to the ground. Instead, gaze about 3 feet in front of you on the floor.
5. Say yes
You set yourself up for failure when you think to yourself that there's no way you'll ever be able to do x, y or z pose. Approach poses that intimidate you with a mindful determination. Say yes. Yes to your strength, your will, and your evolving practice.