September 3, 2018
Pincha Mayurasana....or pinch me that I am finally balancing in this pose??
It won’t be a surprise to most, but I’ve been quite obsessed with inversions for the last couple of years.
Headstands came in pretty easy for me. Once I learned a few key alignment tricks - hips over the head, elbows shoulder width-apart, sucking in the belly - it felt like something just clicked and I was able to consistently find that balancing point with very little effort.
The story is very different with forearm or handstand balances.
But as with headstand practice, I kept on popping up against a wall when and where I would get a chance, sometimes jumping up with so much inertion, that I would bounce off like a fly, other times tap-dancing with the wall for the split second I could take my feet off.
And while I could stay by the wall for an increasing amount of time, I was getting nowhere closer to actually having any control in the pose or knowing how my body should feel in the pose.
Yet I kept on hoping that one day all of this “practice” and “drills” will surely pay off and it will click like it did with the headstand.
Obviously, it didn’t happen!
What needed to click is for me to finally realise most challenging poses are made up of numerous elements and have to be entered in gradual stages.
As my yoga teacher said, "It’s not what we want to hear, but it’s all about the boring stuff!". Proper warm up, muscle activation and body awareness is key.
For Pincha Mayurasana, it’s all about your shoulders, hamstrings and core.
So make sure n1. your shoulders feel super strong and open as flexing them with your elbows on the floor is much harder, n2. hamstrings are stretched so you can almost tip over to the pose to minimise the hop, 3. your core is active and engaged to stop you from collapsing in your lower back.
If you’re on a Pincha journey yourself, here are a few useful drills and techniques I recently learned from my amazing teacher Imi at Triyoga (if you're in London you have to go to her classes!!)
Needless to say, be safe with your practice - don’t try this at home if you’re completely new to the pose, but ask for help and guidance from your teacher to get you started.
Strap circles - holding the strap over your head, lock your elbows and reach over and behind your back down to your hips, then circle back all the way down in front of you. The wider your hand grip on the strap, the easier. You're working to reduce the distance while being able to keep your arms completely straight throughout.
Eagle/Garudasana arms - place one elbow on top of the other and interlace the palms, push the elbows away from your body keeping the forearms vertical, and feel the stretch through your upper back and shoulder blades.
Cow Face/Gomukhasana arms - raise one arm behind your head bending the elbow and trying to bind from below with the other hand. Use a strap or hold onto your t-shirt if your hands don't meet. When in place, lean back with your head against the top arm to intensify the stretch in your tricep.
Uttanasana - for hamstring flexibility.
Downward facing dog - push the floor away, open and protract your shoulders.
Plank/Table Top - shoulders protraction and retraction. Without bending the elbows move through your shoulders 1. push the ground away to dome and maximise the space in between your shoulders 2. retract the shoulders and let the shoulder blades draw together. Elbows stay straight! Repeat for x 20-40 times!
Plank - keep the dome in the shoulders pushing the floor away and build strength to hold up to 4 minutes - it's a killer!
Downward facing dog to dolphin dog - move one forearm at a time, but work your way to push up and lower down with both forearms simultaneously.
Dolphin planks - brick in between the hands, static hold and walking feet in and out, bringing your shoulders over elbows.
Dolphin pinch ups - bringing your nose to touch the floor.
Dolphin dog one leg raises trying to keep your shoulders and torso over your elbows.
Arms and forearms shoulder-width apart. The elbows will really want to flare out to the sides, but it's absolutely key you keep the elbows in line with the shoulders! A brick in between the hands or a strap around your upper arms is very helpful here.
Without a brick you can still try to keep your forearms parallel to each other (much harder this way), or make a triangle with your palms down or clasped in a fist (easier). I prefer palms down that gives me a better grip to the floor for balance.
Hips over shoulders, shoulders over elbows.
Push the floor away by opening and protracting your shoulders
Suck in ribs and core
Walk your feet in as much as you can to bring your torso and shoulders over the elbows
Pointed toes and straight legs, raise one leg as much as you can
Kick up with the bottom leg, minimise the swinging with the top leg
Float rather than hop
Drishti (focused gaze) between the hands
Finding balance (by a wall):
Shin’s distance away from the wall, kick up
Bend knees to 90 degrees touching the wall
Adjust your alignment - push away from the floor, suck in ribs and squeeze your legs together
Try extending one leg at a time not losing your alignment
Finding balance (without a wall):
It might not work for everyone, but I let my top leg go over to the other side that helps outweigh the kicking leg (this might land you in a forearm wheel, so stay safe within your range of motion, and if you’re going into a wheel, warm up cannot be more important!)
Engage and push the ground away with your shoulders
Activate your core - no banana’ing in the lower back
Slowly start to bring your legs together
Focus your awareness on your fingers, forearms and shoulders
If you want to geek out and get a more detailed breakdown of the pose and its anatomy aspects, I highly recommend checking out Jason Crandell's post on the subject as well!
And wherever you are in your yoga journey, remember to practise patience, consistency and non-attachment if it's still not happening!
That's where I will be with my handstand affair ☺️