Arm Balances and Inversions!
by Julee Yew-Crijns
Arm balance! Inversions!
Normally these words invoke three types of response in class. I either see excitement, fear or a kind of blank expression – I read the thoughts as “no, yeah, OK, but why??”
If it excites you, yay! I don’t have to convince you to try it and you probably already know its benefits.
If you are afraid of them, I hope this will fuel your curiosity for them, enough to persevere with the practice.
Let’s see if I can answer the ‘why’ of it…
For many of us, our day to day life requires little work of our upper body (arms, shoulders, chest, and abdomen). If we do not exercise these parts of our body, the muscles will probably weaken over time. It may seem insignificant but this can contribute to some loss of independence- for example, not being able to carry shopping bags, open jars, lift or move things. It can prevent conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist weakness, finger and hand stiffness…
Also, it is now a well-known fact that weight bearing is good for our bones and a great prevention of osteoporosis.
Apart from this, arm balances and inversions are fun!
They can also help build confidence, change our perspective (literally!), especially if we have quite a settled or routine life. We forget that we got here through many little journeys and challenges. These practices that make us a little scared and unsure, reminds us of our strengths. Having to practice persistently to nail the pose also reminds us that there is no failure in effort, just many little steps forwards. In fact, making these efforts will give you a confidence boost in yourself each time. And everything you learn on your mat will apply off the mat too. With more confidence and less fear, you will probably start to see more possibilities in progressing towards your life goals.
Benefits of arm balances and inversions:
Strengthens arms, shoulders, abdominals, wrist, fingers, sharpens concentration
Arm balances are challenging because they require both strength and flexibility. If you have more of one than the other, the right prep poses will be useful in helping you find stability in the pose. Also, there is some technique involved of course; understanding which muscles to engage, how to stack bones, which part of the body to move and where, and understanding the point of balance in your body.
I particularly love sharing this practice in a workshop setting where there is time to break down the elements of the practice, pick up prep poses, ask questions, try and try again, laugh!- plenty of laughs! Most of all, workshops will give you a better understanding of what you are doing, or trying to do when you are in a general class, when the teacher only has 5 breaths to a minute to instruct the pose. What you take away from a workshop are the tools to support you in the development of your practice, safely. So you may not leave the workshop nailing the pose, but you will definitely leave it having an idea of how to practice it!*
Join me at my next workshop for beginners-intermediates at Red Hot Yoga Guildford on the 29th March. This is for those who have either never ever tried it before or have dabbled in it a little or a lot. If you are already stable in the either arm balancing or headstand, and wish to start trying some intermediate balancing, please do come along too. I will offer these to anyone who is ready to move there. We will apply the same principles when moving into more “technical” poses, so I will be able to serve both groups simultaneously.
See you on the mat!
* a little note
I would really advice students not to practice headstand on their own or in class until they have had some detailed instruction or supervision on how to do it. In my opinion, headstand is an advance pose and can cause injury (& serious injury) if not practiced properly. As always, honour where you are in your practice, practice with patience and love for your body. Namaste