The following is a powerful practice which will focus on arm balances – more specfically Eka Pada 2. You will strengthen the core, shoulders, and arms. You will open the hips, and lengthen the hamstrings. All of which will help you get in to the apex pose.
These poses (and particularly the final pose) are aimed at intermediate to advanced yoga students. If you have not practiced any arm balances before, you may want to start with my Crow Pose tutorial first.
I am not using any props in the example pictures, and you shouldn’t really need them, however it is always a good idea to have a block or two close by.
If you would like to watch the full 30 minute tutorial and vinyasa flow, find it here.
1. Cat/Cow – Set up with a strong foundation in table top pose. Warm up the chest, shoulders and upper back with some motion here. Inhale dropping the belly and lifting the gaze. Exhale rounding the back and contracting. After a few rounds of standard cat/cow, add on. When you drop the belly, also kick your right heel up towards the sky. Squeeze the glutes, engage and strengthen the hamstrings. Exhale, pulling the knee to nose and strengthening the hip flexors. Do 3 rotations of this, then open the knee out to side and make some big circles.
2. Lizard Pose – From table top, step the right foot towards the outside of right hands. Roughly aligning the knee over the ankle. Come up high onto your fingertips, and melt your hips forward. Lift the chin and chest, drawing the shoulder blades down the back. To work on hamstring flexibility here as well, straighten the right leg. Walk the hands towards the left (about 45 degrees), bend through the elbows as you rock the hips back. Counter by reaching forward through the fingertips and folding down. Instead of pushing the extended leg out, push down through the heel and drag it back. Making for an active dynamic stretch.
Repeat 1 and 2 with the left leg.
3. Plank – Set up with palms at shoulder width, and feet at hip width. Draw the low belly in, and reach tailbone toward the heels. Push down into hands, spreading the shoulder blades wide. Inhale and lift the right leg up a couple of inches above the floor. Exhale, tapping knee to nose. Inhale back to three-legged plank, exhale knee to right shoulder. Inhale back, exhale knee to left elbow.
4. Lunge – From plank, step the right foot through between hands. Lower the left knee to floor, sinking hips forward into low lunge. Keep the rib cage drawing in. Take hands into sphere mudra, by bringing the fingertips together and bending knuckles and elbows. Apply pressure to the fingertips, and bring mudra to the heart. Tuck the back toes under and lift the back knee, coming to high lunge. Exhale to twist to the right. Inhale to return forward, and then exhale to twist left. Move through the twists a few times to each side.
Repeat 3 and 4 on left leg.
5. Chaturanga with Leg Stretch – Return to downward dog, exhaling the right leg up for three-legged dog. Exhale forward to a plank, bringing the lifted right knee to the right shoulder. Repeat three times. On final time forward, hold. Optionally, drop to chaturanga by bending the elbows and hold. This is a very similar action to what we will be doing in the final pose.
6. Split Stretch – Come back to low lunge with the right foot forward, outside of the right hand. Take a quad stretch here in lizard, by bending the left knee and reaching right hand to grab the left foot. Return to low lunge. Toe heel the foot out further as needed (maybe coming to right edge of mat to take a wide stance). Hands should be shoulder width apart. Curl the back toes under and lift back knee off the mat. Try to take the right arm underneath the right leg. Getting as close on top of the shoulder as you can. From there try to straighten the right leg, lifting the foot off of the mat. Try to hold here for a few breaths. Without dropping the foot, circle the right leg back around, coming into downward dog.
Repeat 5 and 6 on the other side.
7. Eka Pada 2 – Bring the hands to the mat and the right foot outside of the right hand. Take the right foot wide, and again wiggle the right arm under the leg, just like in the last pose. Ground down into the palms, straightening the front leg and floating it up. If comfortable there, incorporate chaturanga arms and try to also lift the back leg. Trying to split the legs wide open. Keep the head lifted. To exit out of the pose, lower the left foot, then bring the right knee back to shoulder and transition through to three-legged dog.
Now try on the other leg!
Before getting off of your mat, cool down with some passive poses like pigeon, happy baby, reclined spinal twists, and of course savasana.
Want to see, instead of read? Watch the full practice below.
Happy arm balancing,
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Yoga with Kassandra – Disclaimer
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