By: Lynn Roulo
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an extremely experienced yoga practitioner to perform arm balances. And, while social media posts might leave you with the impression that you need to be both extremely fit and flexible, this too is a myth. Arm balances are more accessible than you realize if you have the right attitude and follow a well-crafted training program.
What are arm balances?
Arm balances are yoga poses in which the weight of the body is supported by the hands and arms alone. As your hands or forearms are the only things in contact with the ground, the full weight of your body adds a lot of pressure to the forearms and wrists, so you need to be careful in performing arm balances. If done incorrectly or without proper preparation, they can be a fast track to injury. Handstands are one of the most popular and easily recognized arm balances. A few other common arm balances include crow pose, crane pose, eight-angle pose, peacock pose, and Koundinyasana I & Koundinyasana II.
5 tips to help you master arm balances
- Take a holistic approach.
The word “yoga” means “union” and arm balances are a great way to explore this philosophy. While arm strength is important, you need to train your whole body. A strong core is key and will help your ability to balance. The strength of your abdominal area and the surrounding muscle groups lets your body push away from the ground and helps stabilize your entire body. The core isn’t called your power center for nothing and in arm balances, you will need power. As part of your arm balance training, be sure to have a regular yoga practice that incorporates core work and some balancing postures.
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Also, remember that the balance you experience on the mat is often reflected in daily life. Taking a holistic approach and strengthening your whole body makes you go out into the world a little differently. Don’t be surprised if you start to feel more confident, more likely to advocate for yourself, and more able to access compassion on a regular basis. All of these are common side effects of a regular yoga practice.
2) Build strong arms and wrists.
The area from your elbow to your wrist is the heavy lifter in arm balances, so forearm strength is important. You can quickly build your forearms through a daily set of repetitive exercises.
Experiencing wrist pain that is affecting your practice?
Start by extending your arms straight out in front of your body. Open and close your fists with power, flexing the fingers. Repeat this motion for two minutes each day to begin to build up forearm strength and circulation.
Incorporate arm exercises like push ups and plank pose into your exercise regimen.
Want to make big strides in upper body strength quickly?
3) Get the technique of your hand placement right.
Your hands will be supporting your body so it’s important to take a mindful approach in how you distribute your weight throughout your hands to protect your wrists. Follow these steps:
- Check that your hand placement is correct. This varies for different poses but in general, the hands should be shoulder width apart and placed comfortably in front of your knees.
- Ground down through the knuckle of the index finger, the knuckle of the thumb and inner heel of the palm.
- Check that your index finger is flat and then lightly claw your fingers into the mat or ground.
Ready to Challenge yourself?
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4) Establish mental focus.
Arm balances require mental focus, so don’t leave your concentration out of the equation when preparing for these poses. Take a few breaths to center yourself between each attempt. Consolidate your energy as you push away from the ground and extend your arms. Visualize yourself in the pose. And always remember to breathe your way through the exercise. Your breath is the steering wheel of your thoughts so steer yourself toward success.
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5) Maintain a playful attitude.
Most people don’t nail arm balances on their first attempt. These poses are something you work up to, so in order to make the most of your arm balance experience, enjoy yourself a bit. Don’t be afraid to fall over and take a positive attitude with your failed attempts. Congratulate yourself on your honest effort and keep in mind that each try brings you one step closer to a successful arm balance pose. Don’t get overly attached to the goal and remember to enjoy the journey.
The first time you successfully perform an arm balance is an exciting one and a moment you’ll always remember. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities, boosts your self-confidence, and helps to redefine what is possible. Get started today to open up a whole new world of arm balance poses in your yoga practice.