Arm Balances and Inversions!
by Julee Yew-Crijns
Normally these words invoke three types of response in class. I either see excitement, or fear, or a kind of blank expression – I read the thoughts as “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, 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 is now a well known fact that weight bearing is good for our bones and a great prevention of osteoporosis and in preventing conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist weakness, finger and hand stiffness. Arm balances are a fun way to include some weight bearing exercise in our practice.
Arm balances and inversions can also help build confidence, change our perspective (literally even!), 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 remind us of these journeys and 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. Over time, you will find you have more confidence to try the things that scare you, whether on or off your mat.
Benefits of arm balances and inversions:
Strengthen arms, shoulders, abdominals, wrists, fingers and sharpens concentration.
Arm balances are challenging because they require both strength and flexibility. If you are more of one than the other, the right prep poses will help 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 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 class, and only have 5 breaths to a minute to try 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 at Red Hot Yoga Guildford. 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 either arm balancing or headstand, and wish to start trying some intermediate balancing, please do come along too. I will offer intermediate options 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! xx
Julee’s next ‘Beginnings of Arm Balancing and Headstand’ workshop will be on Saturday 4th March, 14:00-17:00