Arm Balance Poses Take Some Work but Are Definitely Worth the Effort

Watching a seasoned yoga practitioner easily go into arm balance poses like Crane, Peacock or Eight-Angle may stir a combination of awe and fear in you. If so, you are not alone. However, as someone who enjoys yoga, these highly challenging poses eventually become part of your practice, whether you are simply trying to work up the courage to try them or you are actively devising a plan to take your strength - body, mind and even soul - into your own hands. Or arms, in this case.

5 Poses to Get You to Arm Balances

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to add arm balances to your practice - sculpted arms and solid core, better balance, dynamic flexibility, or inner strength from knowing you overcame your apprehension - you can achieve your goals. Most yoga students cannot simply perform challenging the most yoga arm balance poses right away.

The best strategy to avoid injury, excessive fatigue and disappointment is to practice relevant poses to build strength, confidence and the concentration necessary to easily slip into Scale, Flying Crow or Side Crane, effortlessly inspiring a new crop of arm balance hopefuls.

Add the following 5 poses to your yoga routine to get you to arm balances:

Plank Pose. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes who have no interest in yoga - as absurd as that notion sounds to yoga aficionados - regularly use Plank as part of their core workouts, and with good reason. Plank Pose not only helps you build a strong and stable core through isometric practice, but it also improves shoulder strength as you put moderate weight on your shoulders and arms. Also, it takes concentration to maintain a strong Plank Pose, so all the key elements of arm balances are packed into one safe earth-bound pose. If you are not familiar with Plank Pose, begin while on your hands and knees before tucking your toes under and stretching legs out behind you. Keep your body in a straight line while gazing down at your mat. Engage your abdominal poses, making sure to neither sag at your gluteals or raise them too high. Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Commonly paired with Plank Pose in many sequences, Downward-Facing Dog is another pose that will help you build the necessary isometric strength for arm balances. This pose also helps to improve your chest, shoulder caps and triceps strength. Downward-Facing Dog comes across as simple, but that is before performing it—as part of a sequence—six, seven or more times. This pose is ideal for arm balance beginners who worry about the risks of arm balances since your hands and feet are planted on the ground at all times so you can focus on sheer strength, although you do get to practice having your bottom over your head. Begin on your hands and knees before tucking your toes and raising knees from the floor. Straighten your elbows, relax your back, and sink into your heels while pressing the floor and lifting through your pelvis.

Four-Limbed Staff Pose. This pose takes Plank to even deeper levels, increasing the intensity of strength work on your wrists and abdomen. Essentially the lower phase of a pushup, which have to hold as well as simply reach, Four-Limbed Staff Pose starts from Plank when you “firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and press your tailbone toward your pubis.” Lower your arms and torso down to a few inches from the floor, keeping tailbone in place and maintaining a straight spine while preventing your elbows from splaying out. Instead, keep them tucked under your ribs. Perform this on its own, or as part of your Sun Salutation practice.

Boat Pose. It is important to never underestimate the value of core strength when it comes to arm balance positions, and Boat Pose can help. The pose looks simple, but it has plenty of value for your future in performing stunning arm balances. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Lift your legs to a 45-to-50-degree angle off the floor and extend your arms in front of you, parallel to your legs.

Dolphin Pose. Inversions are frequently part of arm balance poses, so you want to make sure to add a preparatory pose that addresses that, and Dolphin Pose is perfect. This pose also strengthens your upper back and shoulders and helps to lengthen your spine. Start from Table position before lowering your forearms to the floor, tucking your toes and lifting your hips up toward the ceiling. Spread your fingers wide and your palms shoulder-width apart. Keep your feet hip-width apart while pressing your heels into the floor.

Once you build a foundation of strength, balance, flexibility and confidence, the more intense, challenging and seemingly death-defying arm balance poses will be well within your reach.