Have some fun with these yogic hand balancers

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shows you four playful hand balancers to enhance your yoga practice.

Yogic hand balancers are treated with a lot of trepidation by certain schools, when actually they usher in a playful element in your yoga practice.

They require skill and strength to perform, both of which are acquired as a matter of course, with a regular yoga sadhana/ practice. To evolve in practice and ensure that you stick to it, you must bring in a playful element -- which is achieved by these hand balancers. Obviously, they cannot be learnt just by looking at these images or reading the instructions here; ideally they must learnt in a class, with the expert guidance of a teacher. This column therefore may be seen as a teaser to those of you already practicing it as well as an inducement to those who wrongly think yoga is boring.

To execute such hand balancers you need more than strength: the emotional intelligence which yoga confers is a direct benefit of such poses. Your ability to not be deterred by fear, ability to stand aside of your emotions, and learn the right sort of restraint (too much eagerness in such poses can actually be counterproductive) all come from regular practice of such challenging poses. The nervous co-ordination involved in holding these poses also challenges the cerebellum, yet again providing a powerful training of our primitive and emotional selves.

The ability to infuse your sadhana with playfulness is clearly an advanced stage that comes from regular practice.

Caution: Poses are meant only for those already practicing yoga and must not be attempted by those with lower back problems, wrist or shoulder joint injury or pain.

Preparatory pose

Sit with your legs stretched out as shown, either with a window sill, a small stool or a bolster. Place the heels of both your feet on the prop. Place your palms flat on the ground beside your hips and inhale. Hoist your hips off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, breathing normally. Exhale, gently relax your hips back to ground. Do this a few times, gradually increasing the number of times you do this, as well as the duration of the final pose.

Avoid: If having wrist, back, shoulder trouble.

Benefits: Prepares hands, wrists, shoulders for the powerful lift needed in hand balancers. The back is also strengthened, as is the abdomen, since muscles in both areas support hand balancers.

Lolasana (Swing pose)

This is a simple pose. However, it may be attempted only by those who can already do the lotus or padmasana. Sit in the lotus pose, feet crossed. Place your palms on the side of your hips. Inhale and hoist your hips off the floor. Hold the pose, breathing normally.

If your balance is assured, gently swing forwards and backwards, inhaling and exhaling respectively. To end the pose, stop the swing, exhale and lower your hips back to ground.

Avoid: If having wrist, back, shoulder trouble.

Benefits: Improves mental and physical stamina. Prepares you for advanced balancers by improving nervous coordination, arm, back and stomach strength.

Bhujapidasana (Arm pressure pose)

This pose is only for advanced practitioners. Stand up straight (in tadasana / palm tree pose). Squat to the kaliasana (kali pose) with your feet shoulder-width apart, flat on ground. Pass your arms under your legs, so that your thighs are rested on the back of your upper arms.

Move your feet towards each other, interlocking them at the ankle. Slowly lift your feet off the ground once assured of your balance. Look ahead. Throughout practice breathe normally and continuously. Exhale, to lower your hips back to the ground and unlock your legs. Then switch legs (for instance, if left foot was over right foot, do it vice versa).

Avoid: If you are a beginner to yoga or if you have wrist, shoulder, back problems.

Benefits: Boosts mental and physical stamina. The other benefits are the same as the previous pose.

Bakasana (Crane pose)

Squat as in the previous pose. Place your arms between your legs, resting each inner leg (slightly above each knee) on the inner upper arm. Raise each foot, with your heel off the ground, with only your toes touching the ground. Spread out your fingers, since the weight of your entire body will rest on them. Check the body for balance and alignment, tilting forward to shift weight to the arms. Look ahead.

Next, lift your right foot a few inches off the ground. Then lift the left foot. Hold the position only for a few seconds, before lowering your feet back gently on ground behind you. Throughout the practice continue normal breathing. With practice you may increase the duration in the final pose.

Avoid: If a beginner to yoga, or have wrist, back, shoulder pain.

Benefits: This is a powerful mind-control tool, teaching restraint. It builds mental, physical stamina.

Source: Rediff.com



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