Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Using Your Core Wisely For Ease in Arm Balances

In this video I am trying to transmit teachings I have learned from Simon Borg Olivier ( and apply them in arm balance poses that we practice regularly in class, the simplest of which is bakasana.  I advise you to attend Simon's classes where you can.

The basic idea is to generate some thrust or power through the abdomen in a way that you can feel relaxed and calm but which will generate the lift you need for arm balances.  Please re-read earlier posts on how to use your hands and armpits as this is assumed knowledge here.

There are many ways to come into bakasana and my intention here is to find a way that allows you to breathe into your belly while it is firm.  I do not mean to infer that other ways are incorrect.  I like practicing this way because, as you will see in the video, I can smile and talk and have a good time in a strong pose because I am at ease.

The great thing about this way of coming into bakasana is that there is only one basic instruction, albeit with a few caveats.

That basic instruction is to start with a relaxed belly and attempt to push the hips forward.  This is not a pelvic tuck.

If you watch the video you will see I start in standing.  I soften the knees.  I let the sitting bones feel as though they are melting down the back of the legs (give length to the lower back, this is not a pelvic tuck).  I relax my belly and breathe into it.

I poke my fingers deep into my squishy belly so you can see it is relaxed.  As a little sidebar, I don't normally walk around with my t-shirt tied up in an 80s Flashdance knot, I just wanted to show you I am  not sucking all of my belly in and that I am starting with a soft belly.

Then I simply move both hips forward.

If you perform this action yourself you should feel that your lower belly automatically becomes firm.  You didn't have to tell it to do so, it just did.  Isn't your body amazing?  This is what I have learned as creating firmness through posture.

Note, you will be unlikely to feel this if you started with a tense belly.  So, let it relax.  Let it hang out.

When done correctly you should still be able to breathe into your belly, although it will not feel as though it is moving out so much anymore.  This is because it has become firm through the posture.

Once you understand this in standing you can try to maintain this feeling as you fold forward.  Only do this if it feels safe and comfortable for you to do.

You can see that I bend my knees to do a forward bend.  This helps me keep the forward momentum of the hips and the postural firmness.

The thing is, as you fold forward the firmness is going to want to escape.  It will almost definitely escape if you try to stick your bottom back and up.  If you look at me, I am trying to move more forward and down so the hips can keep trying to move forward.

To come all the way to the floor my bottom will actually move back a little.  But I keep trying to move it forward.

If, when you put your hands flat on the floor you feel you have lost the firmness then come back up again and try again.

When you can maintain this firmness, lean further into the hands--as much as is safe and comfortable for you.

Perhaps your feet will start to become light and you can dance your toes in so your knees come to rest on your upper arms.  I am not gripping or squeezing them.  I am resting them lightly.  As lightly as possible.  The power if coming from the firmness I have created in my torso and this helps me generate lift so I do not sink.

I apply these principles in other arm balances too.  However, I use postural firmness like this in all of my postures. My whole yoga practice is using my core.  Using it in a very special way; to quote Simon, to create stability with mobility and ease.

Please watch and re-watch is incredible video on the matter of whether it is correct to pull navel to spine here.

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