Getting Into Arm Balances: One Simple Step

I Geek Yoga

It’s not just that I love inversions, or arm balances, yoga philosophy, and our incredible anatomy of muscles, bones and fascia, though I do.

Yoga is an art AND a science. It’s the magic of that combination that really does it for me. Magic, to me, is anything I can’t understand or explain. And that’s when I really get my geek on.

When something seems elusive or difficult, beautiful or inspiring, enlightening or awakening, I want it. I want to break it down and make it accessible. I want that magic sprinkled like pixie dust through my hair and across my shoulders.

No poses illustrate the magic of yoga better than arm balances.

Difficult and inspiring? Yes. Enlightening? Definitely.

The CG

In physics, there’s an imaginary point in a body of matter where the total weight of that body is thought to be concentrated. This point is called the Center of Gravity, or CG. (I told you, I’m a geek!)

For most of us, the CG is the center of the pelvis. For men, it may be a little more in the chest and shoulders, and for ladies it may be a little more in the hips.

According to NASA, (nerd alert!) “We can completely describe the motion of any object through space in terms of the translation of the center of gravity of the object from one place to another…”

The Key

To get into an arm balance and learn to fly, you have to start thinking of your CG. Of course you need limber hips, a strong core, and arms that can easily hold Chatturanga Dandasana. But what you really need —the one simple step— is to move your CG over your hands.

Think about it for a minute. When you’re kicking up into Handstand, you’re often coming from something like Down Dog. Your hips are way back behind your hands in that posture. How can you move your hips from back there to up over your hands?

Sometimes you have to move your CG forward or even to the side, in addition to up. That’s the real key!

Here’s a breakdown of Arm Balances by the general direction we need to move our CG. Start playing with moving your center, and see where the pixie dust lands…

CG Shifts Forward & Up

  • Bakasana (Crow)
  • Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Hurdler’s Pose)
  • Mayurasana (Peacock)
  • Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Pigeon)
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
  • Pincha Mayurasana (Tail or Feather of the Peacock, a.k.a. Elbow Stand)
Eka Pada Galavasana :: Antelope Valley, CA

Eka Pada Galavasana :: Antelope Valley, CA

CG Shifts Laterally & Forward

  • Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow)
  • Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Twisted One Legged Arm Balance)
  • Dwi Pada Koundinyasana (Two Legs to the Side)
  • Ashtavakrasana (Figure Eight)
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 :: Red Rock Canyon, CA

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 :: Red Rock Canyon, CA

CG Moves Straight Up

  • Eka Hasta Bhujasana (Elephant’s Trunk)
  • Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
  • Tolasana (Earring)
  • Vishwamitrasana (Pose dedicated to the sage Vishwamitra)

Vishwamitrasana :: Tuolumne Meadows, CA

CG Shifts Back & Down

  • Bhujapidasana (Shoulder Pressing)
  • Tittibhasana (Firefly)
Bhujapidasana :: Alabama Hills, CA

Bhujapidasana :: Alabama Hills, CA