Arm Balances And How To Crack Them

IMost yoga classes are vinyasa flow type and if they contain arm balances at all there is never enough time. At best there might be 1 or 2 attempts at bakasana [crow] and then the class moves on.This never gives enough time to practice technique or modifications and variations. Arm balances  require absolute focus leading us to a state of dharana or concentration – the 6th limb of yoga. They are tough and flitting in and out of them in a flow can be discouraging. But they are not scary – we just need time and to take things step by step. Desmond Tutu once famously said (through probably not about yoga arm balances so far as I know)

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” What he meant by this is that what might at first seem to be one mammoth unsurmountable problem is actually just a collection of smaller problems which are less difficult to approach or overcome.
Ok so we know now to eat our elephant one bite at a time – but how does that translate into arm balances?
Well , you may have heard of the acronym SMART which goes something like this.

Specific – be specific and select one arm balance so “I will master crow “rather than “I will master arm balances”
Measurable – what is your goal? Like the elephant take it one bite at a time. It may be to get airtime with both feet off the ground just for a second. It may be “I will look forward not down” or “I will remember to breathe” rather than I will succeed in crow
Attainable – You have to be realistic. If you have been a couch potato for 25 years your goals may be very small and there may be many of them. Remember one tiny bite at a time! Set attainable goals – to get airtime, to keep breathing etc
Relevant - You have to want to do it – you need that drive and focus.

– set yourself a deadline but be realistic or you will lose your drive and determination.
Having worked through SMART we have seen that if you just throw yourself into an arm balance – it will probably be game over- and pretty quickly! If you break it down however bit by bit it becomes much less intimidating and you may well just get there.Treat it as a process – a science
What puts us off or discourages us?

  1. The fear of falling. The ego doesn’t like the possibility of not being in control. The adult brain kicks in and starts to overthink and dramatise things.  Before you know it a whole soap opera story line has been created. What happens if I fall? I MIGHT hurt myself,I MIGHT not be able to go to work and I have got an important meeting (in 3 weeks). Yes – you MIGHT hurt yourself but you MIGHT also hurt yourself doing the housework crossing the road etc etc – but you still do it
  2. The need to be in the present moment. Arm balances require huge levels of focus and concentration – more so than in other poses we normally meet in a class. Yet we know that in a class we are not usually present – we are making lists, thinking about work, food etc.
  3. Balance is a funny thing – sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t. And you know what? That is just fine – that is ok. Leave it and return the next day.
  4. A bad experience can also put people off often linked to not having enough time in a class to take things slowly but we learn by experience and we should welcome these moments
  5. Arm balances are not easy. Our arms are probably the weakest part of our body as most of us have desk jobs and an essentially sedentary lifestyle. They just don’t get used and we don’t build up strength in them.

So please do not be discouraged if your arm balances are not happening. Take your time pace yourself and more than anything SMILE !

Michelle Higgins
Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow Teacher Southampton and Hampshire

[email protected]
07803 586161

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