The importance of arm balances in yoga and how to get started

Yoga and sunsets at Santa Teresa beach, photo credit nancygoodfellowyoga.

Yoga and sunsets at Santa Teresa beach, photo credit nancygoodfellowyoga.

Santa Teresa in Costa Rica has become a haven for yoga lovers on holiday.  Combine your vacation getaway at Pranamar Oceanfront Villas and Yoga Retreat with a chance to improve your fitness level at a heavenly property.

You’ve seen the photos, yogis with their arms firmly planted on the floor, legs in the air, and a peaceful smile on their face.  They make it look so easy.  It’s certainly not impossible, and as with anything worth doing it requires patience, practice and concentration.  You certainly won’t achieve an arm balance pose while wondering if you left your oven on, or about a deadline at work.

So, why even attempt arm balances? These poses demand both strength and flexibility, and the challenge is worth it, to make your upper body and core stronger.  They also work your mind, the concentration they require is a way to keep your brain healthy.  Ready to get started?

Your wrists

Your wrists are your foundation, so you need to stretch the tiny muscles and joints inside them every day, and gradually put more weight on them, in preparation for arm balances.  Some exercise you can perform:

  • Ball squeezes using a tennis ball or a stress ball, make a fist around the ball, hold for 5 seconds and repeat ten times. You can also press the ball with your index finger and thumb, using same repetitions.
  • Straight and reverse wrist curls with 5 pound weights will develop your flexor and extensor muscles.
  • Finger curls starting with 5 pound weights, you can switch to heavier ones as you strengthen them. Lay the back of your hand on your thigh, in a seated position, and let the weight roll down, until your fingers can hold it securely.
Nancy Goodfellow performing dragonfly pose, photo credit nancygoodfellow108.

Nancy Goodfellow performing dragonfly pose, photo credit nancygoodfellow108.

Your shoulders

The way your shoulders are positioned when you perform different poses is a key to prevent wrist injuries and to strengthen forearms.  To strengthen these muscles

Arm balances to start with
  • Tolasana (Scale pose)

Sit cross legged in a Lotus position, exhale and push your hands against the floor, tighten up your core muscles and lift off the floor.  Try to suspend your legs and buttocks for 10-15 seconds, lower legs, change legs and lift again.

  • Bakasana (Crow Pose)

To assist you in this pose, you can use a yoga block to squat on, putting your hands on the floor at shoulder distance.  Shift your weight and lift your hips while looking forward.  Position your knees on your triceps, and lift your feet off the floor one by one.  Continually look forward to concentrate and prevent you from losing your balance.

Advanced arm balance performed by Nancy Goodfellow, photo credit nancygoodfellow108.

Advanced arm balance performed by Nancy Goodfellow, photo credit nancygoodfellow108.

Work on your planks (forearm planks, inclines), downward facing dogs and Chaturangas.  These will build your strength and confidence to try these challenging and perspective changing arm balances.

Renowned Instructor and co-owner at Pranamar Oceanfront Villas and Yoga RetreatNancy Goodfellow, teaches classes at the resort and will be happy to assist with your progress during your holiday.

Article by Katie Widdowson

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