Yoga Teacher Training Day 13: It’s All About Arm Balance

Side crow arm balance
Welcome back to my series on yoga teacher training! We had a three-day weekend this time, beginning on Friday night with an arm balance workshop. It was a field-trip kind of weekend. We spent Friday evening at the Inner Life Yoga Studio doing an arm balance workshop with Iyengar instructor Siegfried Bleher. I’m looking forward to giving you all a peek into the things we learned, so let’s get to it!

Getting in Alignment

As you might expect if you know much about Iyengar practice, we spend a great deal of time talking about alignment. Considering this was an arm balance workshop, you might be surprised to hear that spent a great deal of time at the beginning doing mountain pose. As I’ve said before, though, mountain is such a foundational pose, and that body structure carries into every other asana. Getting your mountain pose alignment really is important, even for arm balances.

After mountain, we spent some time on downward facing dog. While he didn’t specifically say so, this pose can actually be considered a type of arm balance! It certainly has an important role to play in cultivating hasta bandha: literally “hand lock”. Cultivating hasta bandha helps us create a good grip and stable, yet also energetic, base for our arm balances.

Getting on Your Hands

I was a bit surprised when we went onto handstand against the wall before any other arm balance poses. Generally speaking, I’m more used to poses like scale pose and crow pose being taught as beginning arm balances. There’s so much fear for so many students in just learning to balance on the hands. Adding in going upside down sure seemed like a lot at once!

Arm balance
Siegfried says the soles of the feet should be facing completely out, sides of the feet touching. I’m…not there yet! 😂

I appreciated it, though, in light of his full sequencing for the workshop. It was very apparent how methodically well-planned the entire thing was. By having us do this challenging asana first, he got us at our most fresh. Even as an avid and regular handstand practitioner, I’d have been far too fatigued to do the pose safely and efficiently had it been placed at the end. I’m pretty sure a few of my classmates got into their handstand at the wall for the first time, and it was really exciting to see!

Getting into Arm Balance

We spent the last part of the workshop doing poses most people think of when they hear “arm balance”. We did crow pose, working into the pose from a few different entry points. It’s actually the first time I’ve been able to get into the pose from garland pose, and also the first time I’ve been able to push up into the straight-armed expression of the pose. Usually, I just start with straightened arms if I’m doing crane. I think that, again, a few classmates were able to get into their crow poses successfully for a few times as well!

He also showed us a variety of other arm balances like elephant’s trunk pose, shoulder pressure pose, and side crow. Had some really interesting tidbits and pointers for these poses that I really enjoyed hearing. I don’t want to give away too much of the secret sauce, because I want to encourage attending a workshop for yourself, but I’ll give one example. In talking about getting the lower leg off of the ground in elephant’s trunk pose, he said to focus on dragging the heel and pushing the hips back, rather than trying to lift straight up. It’s something I had been doing, but I hadn’t quite been conscious of it like that. It was interesting and eye-opening.

Elephant trunk arm balance
Elephant’s trunk is definitely easier if you pull the hips back rather than lift up on that bottom leg.

There was a lot of laughter and joy in the room, both in triumph and in failure. It really was a great workshop. If this post has piqued your interest, I certainly encourage keeping an eye out for further workshops at Inner Life Studio.

As hard as it is to believe, that’s only the beginning of my jam-packed weekend. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I recap my Saturday and Sunday as well!