Getting into Grasshopper
Arm balances are a fun way to begin to advance your yoga practice. In order to move into arm balances with grace and ease there are two main things to start working on. First, arm balances are a true test of your core strength. If you are strong in your deep core muscles, you will be able to hold yourself in these postures without even requiring on much arm strength. With the core activated you will discover the true alignment of the posture as well and find it easy to hold the pose for a few breaths. You will also be able to play with variations with more ease.
Second, arm balances are a game of trust. They require you to let go of the ego, and drive forth with the heart. Now I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Literally because if you have your head down you are almost guaranteed to fall onto it! You must always keep the head up and the heart lifted as you switch your foundation from feet to arms. This little trick of keeping the heart light will help you to keep moving forward rather than down. The only way you will get yourself into one of these postures successfully is if you head onto your mat with a smile on your face ready to play, learn, grow and transform. This is the golden rule always. So once you have tapped into your core strength and decided you are ready to have some fun, start with a few of these prep poses to open up the hips.
Begin by flowing through Surya Namaskara A and B. From there take a dancing warrior series to prep the legs and inner hips (Virabhradrasana II, Exhaulted Warrior, and Parsvokonasana with a wrap). Take Vrksasana next to prepare your body for balance. Now you are ready to start this sequence. You’ll notice throughout that it’s easy to collapse into the lower back. As you work through these next few poses, keep pushing into the hands to keep the chest buoyant and lifted and the spine long.
Standing one legged chair pose with Prayer Hands
Place your hands together in front of your heart. Remember your intention for practice.
Take a slight bend into both knees.
Hook your right ankle just above your left knee and sink further into the pose now (sitting bones down and back). Keep the right foot flexed to protect the knee.
As you press your hands together keep your heart lifting more forward than up
Twisting one legged chair pose with Prayer Hands
Keep bending the left knee until you reach a place where you can keep the chest upright and feel a nice amount of sensation in your outer right hip.
Lift the right arm forward as you inhale, and hook the elbow on the sole of the right foot as you exhale. Depending on your body’s ability to twist, you might just place the right forearm to the sole of the right foot that’s resting on the left knee. If you can manage a deeper twist, begin to work above the elbow and, with time, the armpit, into the sole of the foot.
Press the hands together and guide them into the center of your chest, discovering a beautiful thoracic twist.
Inhale, lift your heart. Exhale, push the right triceps muscle into the foot to help with the twist. Root into the connection between arm and foot as you continue lifting the spine. Keep the right hip firming in as the left knee drops lower.
Take 6 solid breaths here and then switch sides.
*If you’re not there yet, keep working steps one until the body opens up. Trust me, it will happen, just be patient
Grasshopper Prep Pose
If you are getting the foot above the elbow, continue on from here. Look down to the left side. Keep sinking deeper into your left leg until you’re close enough to place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on the ground to the left side. You may need to readjust the right foot, but keep the sole above the elbow.
Take the gaze past your fingertips and begin to lean into Chaturanga arms. The key is to create a shelf to stand on, which means you need to bend into a full 90-degree angle.
Lead with the heart not the head!
As you reach the full angle, keep the elbows squeezing in and take a nice stand on the back of your right arm.
Keep looking forward and draw your left foot tight into your bottom. This may be a great place to stay, or you can extend the leg straight.
Don’t try to move it around, all you need to do is straighten from the knee cap.
Work all the variations first, and you’ll get there with time! Have fun!