Embrace Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)
I remember the elation and shock I felt when I lifted up into my first arm balance! 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 arm balances 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 balance poses that brings about a shift in perspective. Heart above the head – literally. With that in mind, let’s embrace a challenging arm balance, including an advanced variation shown by one of the amazing athletes featured in our catalog.
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. There are several pieces here. We want to cultivate strong, open, and aligned shoulders.
OPEN YOUR HIPS. To work on Garudasana (Eagle Pose) legs, a component of the advanced variation, the hips are key. As a society, we sit in chairs and couches all day. Whether or not you plan on twisting your legs into a pretzel, hip openers are crucial for our life, because tight hips lead to tight backs and tight hamstrings.
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? This is very useful, especially when working on your hips. In my experience, half of the opening comes through your breath, and not forcing the stretch.
WARM UP FOR GARUDASANA: HIPS
Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist) with Leg Extended or Bent. This is probably one of the most important asanas for daily practice. It is incredibly beneficial for the body, specifically the spine and the digestive tract. Start seated; if you have tight hips keep the left leg straight, bend the right knee and cross the right leg over the left. If you have open hips, tuck the left foot into the right hip. Place your right hand behind you, and use this to straighten and support your spine. Press your left elbow into the outside edge of your right knee or, if it’s more comfortable, use your left hand.
Then begin twisting towards the right. It will activate the ascending colon, liver, gallbladder, and right kidney. Hold for 5-10 breaths then switch. The twist to the left will activate the descending colon, spleen, pancreas, and left kidney.
Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose). This can be very strong on the knees, so as you come into it, don’t force it! Come onto your hands and knees, take the right leg and cross it over the left, your knees together with your feet going wide towards the edges of the mat. Slowly lower yourself back down, keeping the legs crossed as this allows for a deeper stretch in the hips. The knees are eventually stacked right on top of each other, and your sits bones are rooted on the floor. If you want to go deeper, fold forward. Repeat on the opposite side.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose). This is a sneaky hip opener, and it’s amazing for the whole body. Your legs get stronger, obviously your balance is improved, and we get a bonus shoulder opener. Start by standing feet together, lift the right leg up and cross it over the left. If you can take the additional bind, wrap your right toes around the back of the calf. Sink down into the hips and draw the knees towards the center and square out the hips. Take the left arm over the right. If you can, wrap one more time and bring the palms to touch. Keep drawing the shoulder blades together on your back and down away from the ears. Repeat with the left leg crossed up over the right, right arm over the left.
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.
Deep Shoulder Opener on the Mat or Against the 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.
PREP FOR PINCHA MAYURASANA
Dolphin Dog. We also covered this one on Embrace Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand). 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)
Once you are ready, try Pincha Mayurasana 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!
You have options with your arms; they can be parallel, triangular with palms together and elbows angled out, or palms together with elbows angled out.
Legs Bent. Once you are up in a stable forearm stand, you can start to drop your feet towards your head. In order to do this, you have to be able to shift your chest forward so it becomes more parallel to the earth. Head stays lifted, knees bent, and feet dropped towards your head. Make sure you have enough control to come back up again.
Garudasana (Eagle) Legs. This requires a lot of stability in your forearm stand. My favorite way to build comfort with this is to start to move with the legs. Splitting them wide, then beginning to twist them back and forth. Once you are comfortable with movement in your arm balance, it’s easier to feel stable when you wrap your legs. To come into Garudasana legs, start to drag your right foot down and wrap it around the left leg. If you can, wrap the toes behind the calf. Try to square out the hips even while you are upside down. Breathe and hold. When you are ready to release, gradually unravel one leg then the other, then do the second side.
Finish up by giving yourself a chance to rest and absorb after your practice, no matter what the difficulty was. Rest in child’s pose, hips to your heels, knees wide, and arms long in front of you. Happy balancing!
Please let us know what where you’re at with these poses!