I remember the elation and shock I felt when I lifted up into my first handstand! I could not believe that I was seriously on my hands with my feet off the floor. I immediately crashed back down, but the feeling was still there… the knowledge that I could. The power of advanced asana is that they are a physical reminder that we are capable of so much more, and that our power and our spirit are vast. This physical experience helps us connect with our fears, breathe deep, and move through them. It’s a moment of truth. We can take this experience any way we choose or need in that moment; we can embrace the fear and choose to feel alive.
Regardless if you make it up or not, it’s how you approach these poses that brings about a shift in perspective. Heart above the head – literally. With that in mind, let’s embrace one of my favorite inversions.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE. There is no question – you have to do core work to go upside down. If your belly is sleeping, you will fall right over. So how do we tackle this problem of core work? My favorite new technique is laughing – seriously, it makes it easier! What can you do to make it fun? Put your favorite song on and go for it! The other key piece is that it doesn’t need to fit in any kind of format. You can do core work while watching a movie or while waiting for the water to boil for your tea. WHATEVER.
ALIGN YOUR SHOULDERS. A big part of this mastering forearm stand is getting your shoulders into their sockets and onto your back. As I sit here typing, I’m rolling mine back into my sockets – it’s a process. We want to cultivate strong, open, and aligned shoulders.
SLOW DOWN. Balance never comes from rushing. The key is to feel all the subtle movements, to find that place of ease, sweetness and stillness. In all arm balances, the true flight comes when you use very little effort. Try not to muscle into it; instead, feel into it. It’s the same for your life. How many times have you tried to force something to work? When you allow it to happen, there is a much greater chance to make it stick.
BREATHE. A good test of whether or not you should move forward is even breath. Can you keep your breath flowing? In my experience a calm breath is a calm mind, which always helps when you face a challenge.
WARM-UP FOR PINCHA MAYURASANA: SHOULDERS
ANAHATASANA (extended puppy pose): Come onto your hands and knees in tabletop, making sure your hips stay stacked over the knees. Walk the hands out in front of you until your arms are in one straight line from the hips. You can drop your head down to the floor for support (or use a block, your chin or, if you’re very open, your chest). Hold for 5-10 breaths.
SHOULDER OPENER (on mat or against wall): Lying on the floor stomach down, extend your right arm out parallel to the top of the mat, with your palm flat against the floor. Slowly rotate your body open towards the left, coming onto your side with your knees bent for stability. Take one full inhale and exhale, then go deeper. The next step is to open up the left knee towards the ceiling, placing the left foot on the floor. Then, bring both knees together towards the ceiling, and roll onto your sacrum. Do not rush. Go to the point that feels juicy and hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the other side.
For the standing variation, face the wall and extend your right arm out parallel to the floor, with your palm flat against the wall. Slowly rotate your body open towards the left. Take one full inhale and exhale, and then go deeper. Do not rush. Go to the point that feels juicy and hold for 5-10 breaths then switch sides.
WARM-UP FOR PINCHA MAYURASANA: CORE
TABLE TOP HUNDREDS: (Thank You Mr. Pilates!) Lying on your back, bring your knees up, stacked over your hips with your shins parallel to the floor. Raise your head (chin down) and shoulders up off the floor, and lift your arms so they are parallel to the floor with your fingers reaching towards your feet. Pump your arms up and down and do ten cycles of breath. Each cycle is five short in-breaths, and five short out-breaths. To make this more challenging, straighten your legs at a 45 degree angle. To make it less challenging, keep your feet on the floor and only lift your head and shoulders.
FOREARM PLANK: Come to hands and knees, and lower down onto your forearms. If you want fire, bring a block in between your elbows and squeeze. Walk your knees back so you are in one long line from your knees to your crown. For more fire, lift up into plank, but keep squeezing the elbows together!!
PREP FOR PINCHA MAYURASANA
DOLPHIN DOG: With forearms and palms on the mat, drop your forehead to the floor with your knees bent. Slowly tuck the toes under and lift your hips up into this modified down dog. The same alignment as down dog applies – keep lengthening your spine and lifting up into the hips. It’s OK to have your knees bent a little so that the spine stays straight.
To take it deeper, straighten your legs and start walking the feet in towards your arms, maybe even coming up onto your tiptoes to bring your weight over your shoulders as much as possible. Then lift your right leg towards the ceiling. Hold for 5-10 breaths then switch.
PINCHA MAYURASANA (Forearm Stand) FACING THE WALL: Sit down, facing the wall with your feet touching the wall. Place your hands by your hips. This is where your hands will be for forearm stand facing the wall. Your elbows will be closer to the wall, about midway through your thighs. Now turn around to face away from the wall. Move your hands into place where you measured them, and bring your forearms down onto the floor, coming into dolphin dog with feet on the ground against the wall. If you find the need to bring your arms in closer, please do. If you feel comfortable, you can start to walk one leg up the wall, then the other. Eventually, you will bring both legs parallel to the earth, supporting your body with the wall and your forearms.
To take it deeper, start to open your right leg up towards the ceiling or maybe even splitting your legs. The next step is to start to bring your other leg away from the wall, maybe just onto your tiptoes. Play with the balance here. Hold for 5-10 breaths then switch legs.
PINCHA MAYURASANA (Forearm Stand) FACING AWAY FROM THE WALL: Come into dolphin dog, fingertips about five inches away from the wall. Walk your feet in towards your arms, maybe even coming up onto your tiptoes, bringing your weight over your shoulders as much as possible. Lift your right leg towards the wall, then your left. You can try kicking up towards the wall, but I would recommend steady controlled movement whenever possible. Once you are up, start to lift one leg then the other away from the wall. Hold for 5-10 breaths. The next step is to bring the other leg away from the wall, maybe just onto your tiptoes. Play with the balance here. Hold for 5-10 breaths then switch legs.
PINCHA MAYURASANA (Forearm Stand) AWAY FROM THE WALL:
Key points to focus on:
• Spiral Inward – Imagine squeezing a ball between your legs — the more they are engaged the easier it is to stay up.
• Engage – Don’t let your ribs or belly fly out; keep them in.
• Align – Bring your shoulder blades down onto your back.
• Focus – Gaze can be down at the floor or out straight.
Balance – Your weight will move from fingertips to forearms. Be OK with a little bit of movement!
ARM VARIATIONS: they can be parallel, triangular with palms together and elbows angled out, or palms together with elbows angled out.
XOXO have fun playing!
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