When most people think of arm balances, they immediately think of arm or core strength. These are definitely important aspects, but one that is also of importance and often overlooked is the function of the hips during arm balancing poses.
Take a moment and think about the last time you did Crow Pose or Bakasana as it's called in Sanskrit. Have you ever felt like your legs were going to fall off your arms or even that it was difficult to hold because your legs felt so heavy?
When you begin to cultivate mobility in the hips, your entire body will also feel lighter. This is very helpful during arm balances because you want to resist the pull of gravity downward. Other arm balancing poses such as Side Crow, Firefly Pose, Grasshopper Pose, and more also require the hips to be quite open in order to not only accomplish them but also to hold them. Let's take a look at some poses that will help you open the hips and hold arm balances.
Happy Baby Criss-Cross
Open your hips and work your core at the same time! Lie down on your back and bend your knees into your chest. Then, open your knees wide with legs bent and flex your feet. Place your hands behind your head and lift up on an inhale. Keep the navel plugged into the spine and on exhale, twist to the right side. Inhale through center and twist to the left. Repeat 20 times! Perfect for Crow Pose.
Revolved High Lunge
Prepare your hips for Side Crow with this stretch. Place your right foot in front of your left in a runner's lunge position. Bring your hands to heart center and twist to the right side so that the left elbow hooks across the right thigh. Spiral the belly tightly in and try to extend the arms if you can. This part is essential to feel the depth of the twist, which also requires the outer hip to be stretched. From here, you can try to place the hands on the ground for Side Crow, but if the arm pops out from the side of the leg, it will be much more difficult to achieve this challenging pose.
But, don't give up hope! Remember that there are steps to get there, and you can't skip a step to get to where you want to go. Stay in the present moment with wherever you are at in your practice.
This very basic stretch will help open the hips for Grasshopper Pose. In Grasshopper Pose, you take a single-leg chair position, twist it, then balance on the arms. It sounds more complicated than it actually is, but it does require some time for the hips to understand.
Lie on your back and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Begin to bend the knees into your chest and thread your right hand through the center of both legs, reaching for the left knee. To deepen this, flex the right foot, press the right elbow into the right thigh, and shift everything over to the left an inch or two. Breathe deep and enjoy!
Try these hip openers out and see how they affect your arm balance practice. You just may be surprised at the results!