Thursday 25 October 2012

Arm Balances: Notes from our "Advance Your Asana" Series!

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Arm Balances

           The highly mobile structures of the hand, elbow and shoulder girdle are ill suited to weight bearing.
In the foot, four fifths of the foot’s structure is dedicated to weight bearing because the dense tarsal bones comprise half the length of the structure.
In the hand, half the length of the structure is composed of the phalangeal bones. The solid and relatively immobile carpals (wrist bones) comprise only one fifth of the total length of the hand. Therefore, you only have half the length of the hand available for weight bearing.

Chaturanga Dandasana
* Chatur= four    Anga= a limb     Danda= a staff or stick
Affects: builds heat in the body. Strengthens the arms and wrists in preparation for arm balances. Contracts and tones the abdominal organs
* Weakness in the pose shows up in the lower body as lumbar hyperextension combined with hip flexion. To counter this, the coordinated action of the hamstrings is important.

Baka= Crane, heron
Affects: strengthens the arms and abdominal organs since the latter are contracted.
* Imagine wings were spread as you abduct the scapulae, and beak is lifted as you extend the cervical spine.
* Cervical extension tends to flatten the thoracic curve, so it’s important to constantly engage the muscles of the spine to maintain flexion.

Pincha Mayurasana
Pincha= a feather of a tail                        Mayura= peacock
Affects: develops the muscles of the shoulders and back. Tones the spine and stretches the abdominal muscles. Great prep pose for handstand.
* Push forearms into the floor to engage the serratus anterior muscles, which will allow the scapulae to come onto the back close to the rib cage.
* Extension in the thoracic spine essential, therefore freedom and mobility in this area is important. The more extension there is, the less the lower back and cervical spine have to do.
* If there is tightness in the forearm (supinator muscles), the elbows will swing wide and the hands will draw together. A shortened latissimus dorsi can also cause this and can also cause too much lumbar extension
* The curve in the low back needs to be stabilized by a strong core

Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Adho mukha= face downward            Vrksa=tree
Affects: develops the body harmoniously. It strengthens the shoulders, arms and wrists and expands the chest. Washes out your brain, and removes blocks. Sweeps away negative and obsessive thinking; you simply can’t obsess while you’re in this pose or you’ll fall out.
* Challenge in handstand is to feel for how to stay connected all the way up and down as you move through unknown space and establish new neurological pathways.
* the breath can often be an afterthought, as there is so much going on already. The combined action of the core supporting muscles, working to minimize shape change in the spine, also minimizes the breath movements. Therefore take quick, efficient breaths that don’t disrupt your balance.
** maintain the integrity of the hands at all times, as all of the body weight is balancing on them. Collapsing into the wrist or heel of the hand is quite dangerous for the carpal tunnel and the nerves passing through it.
* gravity will want to flex and abduct the hips, so it is important to activate the hamstrings and to energize the legs fully to stay straight.

“Instead of feeling how far you can go in a pose, or how long you can stay in it, ask yourself how long you can feel your spirit exploring the physical pose.” ~ Ana Forrest