By Yoga Journal
Learn how to really take flight in Bakasana and beyond with this core-activating sequence.
Arm balances are only partially about the arms. Without a strong core, you may find yourself relying on your upper body to muscle through them. But the key to really taking flight in arm balances like Bakasana is distributing your attention equally between the core by activating the pelvic floor and lower abdominals and the upper body by finding stability and strength in the shoulder girdle. Training the mind to focus on the core in these poses stabilizes the asana but also gives you practice finding your peaceful center in challenging situations. That's work that applies off the mat, too.
In this step-by-step method, you will begin by summoning the core strength you need to lift the body and then integrate the work of the shoulders to create a solid foundation for your body weight. Never rush the journey toward strength. Instead take the time to build it up slowly and enjoy the process.
Step 1: All-Fours Core
Start on your hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart. Align knees under the inner edges of hip joints. Exhale as you round the back while protracting the shoulders, pulling the lower ribs in and tucking the tailbone. Engage your core to support the spine. Feel as though your body lifts itself from below. Next, take more weight into your arms and shoulders. Slowly start to move your shoulders forward, allowing the wrist creases to deepen. But avoid taking your shoulders past the tips of your fingers. As you lean forward, maintain the engagement of your core and position of your spine. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat 3 times. If this is challenging for you, stop here and keep practicing.
Step 2: Plank Pose
If you feel up for a challenge, then build up to a full Plank. Keeping shoulders stacked over palms, inhale as you curl the toes under and straight the legs to come up to full Plank. Keep core engaged while pressing back into the balls of the feet. Gaze forward of your fingers.
Step 3: High Plank
Next take your Plank forward and up into high Plank, pitching the shoulders forward and pulling in with the core. Round the back and come all the way up to your tippy toes. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
About Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is a self-professed Handstand lover (just check out her Instagrams). She's also a Pattabhi Jois-certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher who travels worldwide, author of three books, featured in six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, YogaVibes and a Cody App video series, and co-founder of Miami Life Center, where she and her husband Tim Feldmann are based.