Why you should include arm balances in your yoga practice

4 min read

Do we really need to sit on our hands? Instagram certainly would have us believe so.

The social media stars are now the tricky arm balances. They’re a way for aspiring yogis to be judged and a great way to fill up workshops.

Some people wonder if yoga is now a circus. Perhaps not far from the truth–Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern postural yoga, was greatly inspired by gymnastics and body-building methods, which have certainly informed much of what we do on the mat today.

The arm balances are a family of movements that are both fascinating and joyful. Why do we them?

Here are five ways that a playful approach will improve your yoga practice.

Change your perspective

An arm balance will force us to bring our faces uncomfortably close to the floor. Inverted arm balances, such as headstands or handstands, also make us turn the world on its side.

Both physical and metaphysical benefits can be gained by changing our “normal” everyday view. This change in perspective is challenging to proprioception. It cannot be easy to locate ourselves in space when we first start doing arm balances.

When we are confused about up, down, left,t, and right, we can’t tell where our hips are. As our awareness increases, we develop greater grace and balance in all orientations.

Metaphorically, flipping the world upside down can help us see life from a new perspective. You may find that you are more creative when solving problems as you experiment with new body positions.

Face your fears

This change of perspective can be scary for many! When we play with arm balances, we can learn to leap of faith, face our fears, and build a stronger relationship with ourselves and our bodies.

People are often surprised at what they can achieve with a little dedication and the help of a skilled teacher. The magic starts when you step out of your comfort zone.

Find out how light you can be.

You don’t need to look far to see yogis who move with an awe-inspiring grace on their hands. However, advanced arm balances are not as gravity-defying as you may think.

The architect of the human body is able to distribute the mass evenly over the foundation in the same manner that engineers and architects can build towers with impossible heights. Theoretically, any arm balance can be achieved when the weight is evenly distributed over the base point. In fact, gravity is what allows this to happen.

This skill will allow us to feel the weight and lightness of our bodies more deeply, as well as become more anchored or buoyant with the way we live.

Dig deeper.

Upper body strength will be required. But brute force will only take you so far. Although a six-pack is helpful, it’s subtle strength that keeps an arm balance from falling.

The superficial muscles of the body are mainly useful for large movements. However, the deep, small muscles give us stability. Finding and using these muscles helps us focus on the deeper layers of the body rather than the surface.

It is a great way to enter the meditative aspects of the practice.

Never give up; always let go.

Softness is the foundation of arm balances. The addition of challenging arm balances to our practice can help us learn discipline. However, too much hardness will hinder our progress. It is important to learn how to be both strong and flexible.

Most arm balances require flexibility as well as strength to achieve and maintain.

Many imbalances have been named after flying insects and birds — fireflies, peacocks, or swans. In order to achieve an arm balance, you must have a soft, feathery quality. It is important to return to arm-balancing without getting frustrated or tense.

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