How to Hang Your First Arm Balance

By Linsey Birusingh

As much as I emphasize yoga philosophy and meditation, the physical movement still enamors me. Standing on your hands for the first time can open an exhilaration you haven’t felt since childhood. Invoking the stance of a humble warrior invites the peaceful, strong, and benevolent qualities of its namesake. The way the ancient dance of the sun salutation makes you feel, knowing millions have done it before you, at the same moment with you, and will after you, is irreplaceable.

Today, let’s play with the physical and enjoy the benefits of a foundational, fun posture. Everyone can benefit from crow pose’s empowering and playful nature. I love helping students attain their first crow hang, and pride myself on being the “crow whisperer”. Unless you’ve got broken arms or can’t reach the floor, I can get you into crow in my class. Why? Because for me, that first arm balance took what felt like years. I ended up feeling a little deflated after 8 months of no lift off. Was my body just not made for this? I was not mentally strong enough to take flight or smart enough to listen to the teachers cues? Was I still a good yogi if I couldn’t grow my physical practice even after eight months of trying? Would I be the only yoga teacher without this skill?

 

If, like me, these doubts are getting you down, let them go. They’ll sabotage your will to try and drain the enjoyment from your practice. So, let’s open back up to the possibility of your first arm balance. This is what’s important to understand before I get you into your first crow!

 

  • The poses speak to you. If you put self-judgement and ego aside, you can listen to what the posture says you need to work on. Did fear keep you from tipping forward enough? Perhaps a little more confidence or risk-taking is needed. Were your arms wobbly? Let’s work on strength or better alignment. Could you lift off, but not balance for long? We may need to work on proprioception. Were you unsure about the technique and need more coaching? Ask questions! Students who ask for what they need are much more likely to feel successful. As we listen, we empower ourselves to seek out the solution and work on those nuances that may be holding us back.
  • It can take years to lift off into a posture, depending on your anatomy, practice frequency, and more. Have patience and truly try to enjoy the process. If self-doubt or fear are standing in your way, take baby steps and realize obstacles are a natural part of personal and yogic growth. I’ll tell you, though getting into a balance is fun, no one throws you a party or gives you a free puppy when you finally get some hang time!
  • You don’t have to get “advanced” poses to be a yogi. But I do suggest at least trying them, as they are great teachers of self compassion, patience, and ego. Plus, you get all of the physical and physiological benefits of most arm balances even if you can’t lift up into the fullest expression.

 

Let’s have a little fun now!

 

  • Alignment

    Begin in yogi squat at the top of your mat. Place a pillow or block 8-12 inches in front of you, the further away the better. Cup the mat with your hands, shoulder-distance apart. Fan your fingers and palms into big, ugly crow hands. Feel the spongy mat with your finger tips (these are your breaks). Lift your hips and tailbone into the air and snuggle your knees onto the backs of your triceps, farther up toward your arm pits. Squeeze your elbows in toward midline and firm your abdominals. Make sure your breath is still flowing freely.

  • Technique

    Now, tilt your nose forward until it hovers right above your pillow. The lower, the better, as this will allow the weight of your pelvis and legs to shift. You should be able to smell your hopefully very fresh pillow case! Elbows will need to bend a lot to achieve this. Gaze is forward. You will know your head is low enough when your feet no longer have weight in them. Finally, engage your inner thighs, pulling them tightly toward one another and lift one or both feet.

  • Common road blocks

    Some students forget to bend their elbows. This is the only way to lower your face forward without damaging the joint. I see many students with their pillow or block too close to their body, so if you feel you need to round your spine to get the the prop, move it forward and try again. Many students also believe their face is low enough, yet it is not. Use a mirror or simply touch your nose to your pillow to ensure you’ve gone the distance. Finally, many students’ gazes go back toward their feet naturally. Re-focus your drishti at the top of your mat and your feet will stil do what you tell them.

  • Secret sauce

    Start with your feet on a block or a stair. Beginning with your pelvis high can make lift off easier! Or… I’m a fan of starting with my head on a block (after step one alignment of course), lifting my feet, then taking my head off of the block.

 

As yoga teachers, it is our job to help you grow. Do not be shy about asking questions in front of the class or summoning a teacher to your mat for guidance. You’ve got this, whether in 2021 or beyond. May the postures that challenge you teach you new things about yourself, and reinforce the good qualities they embody within your spirit.

 

 

 

About the author, Linsey Birusingh:

I am an E-RYT 500 YACEP called to teach yoga after it helped anchor my anxiety and heal my body! I love being on the teaching staff for Power Life’s 500 hour and 200 hour teacher trainings. I currently teach trauma-sensitive yoga and work with private clients on mental wellness, cross training and trauma recovery. Always a student, I am pursuing my 1000 hour RYT yoga certification with Yoga Medicine. I am an active philanthropist with a background in journalism, tv, print and women’s studies. Please connect with me at yogathrill.comor www.instagram.com/yogini_linsey for informational videos and upcoming events.

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About Kirk: 

Kirk was working 80-hour weeks and wearing his shoulders as earrings when he found yoga in 2005. Forever the competitive athlete, he loved the physicality of yoga. When the spiritual and philosophical side of yoga were exposed to him, Kirk was hooked. Yoga provided him with what other activities couldn’t -- the ability to foster the benefits of practice both on and off of the mat. Yoga was something that Kirk could bring into all aspects of his life. 

Kirk knows that yoga can be intimidating, so he crafts a class that is playful and inviting, while still being challenging and safe. His creatively planned classes build strength and flexibility in your body and mind while establishing clarity, giving you more confidence to overcome obstacles in your life, and keeping you injury-free. His classes are themed with a message that is relatable and will inspire you to take it with you off your mat. Kirk has been teaching yoga since 2008 and lead his first teacher training in 2012. Where Kirk truly shines is in coaching, developing and bringing out the best in others.  

Kirk enjoys traveling (40+ countries to date!), snowboarding, and cherishes time with his wife and two daughters. 

About Christen: 

Christen Bakken’s yoga journey began in 1998 in a Bikram studio that provided a safe and secure place to practice. She saw the yoga mat as a place to remember her purpose and a place to play. As she continued her studies and began her journey to teaching in 2006, Christen infused yoga classes with devotion and the yoga mat became a place of personal transformation and healing. Her classes are filled with laughter, song, sweat, and usually heart openers. In 2013, Christen began training yoga teachers. This is the place where she finds the most joy - in community with folks looking to grow and be of greater service in their homes, on their mats, and in the world. Over the years, she has led trainings in Denver, the Midwest, Florida, and now abroad. She has trained in continuing education modules, 200-hour, 300-hour, and 500-hour programs. Beyond the mat, Christen is a passionate adventure seeker - she loves to bike, snowboard, and spend time with her husband and pups. She sees each day as a blessing and hopes to remind all who interact with her of this truth.  

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How to Hang Your First Arm Balance Info