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Preparing to Fly – arm balancing with Becky Farbstein

May 24, 2017

When many people first begin practising yoga, they are afraid of balancing on their hands or arms. However, just as we learn to stand on our feet as children, we can learn to stand on our hands as adults. One of the best things my first yoga teacher ever did for me was ask me to practice arm balances in my very first yoga class. She eliminated the fear that some students develop about these poses by introducing them as equivalent to standing postures like Tadasana and Warrior II. Like my first teacher, I believe wholeheartedly that arm balances are integral to yoga and that it is possible to make them accessible to all levels of practitioners, from true beginners to experienced yogis.

Students sometimes tell me that they don’t think they are strong enough to practise arm balances (“My wrists are going to break!”), to which I always respond that they probably already have plenty of strength to practice most arm balances; what is needed is more body awareness and an understanding of the techniques that underlie these postures. Consider this: crow (bakasana) is very similar to an upside down chair pose (utkatasana), side crow (parsva bakasana) is a lot like an an upside down twisting chair pose (parvritti utkatasana), and flying crow (galavasana) is like practising pigeon pose on chaturanga arms.

If we start to think more intelligently about arm balances, rather than immediately panicking when a teacher suggests we try these poses, we begin to unravel their enigma and they start to feel much more approachable and achievable. My upcoming workshop is designed to give yogis the tools they need to break down the fear and intimidation surrounding arm balances so that they can practice arm balances with curiosity, playfulness, and above all else, an intelligent understanding of how to move your body into these shapes.

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Arm balances have so many benefits for yoga practitioners. Like all yoga postures, arm balances increase physical strength throughout the body, particularly in the arms and the core. The workshop will introduce the ways that physical strength and energetic engagement are necessary for practising arm balances, and we will explore how to engage energy locks (“mula bandha” and “uddiyana bandha” to allow us to lift off), while also introducing preparatory drills and exercises to learn how to use the body in new ways.

However, even more importantly than brute strength, practising arm balances both demands and fosters a heightened state of focus, concentration, and awareness. Because most of us are unfamiliar with the sensations of tilting our body weight into our arms and hands, we can’t help but pay close attention as we begin to practice these poses. In this way, arm balances can provide a unique opportunity to quiet the mind chatter and help us sustain a sense of one-pointed concentration.

Above all else, arm balances can, and should, be fun. Arm balances are inherently playful (what’s more ridiculous than standing on your hands and twisting your body into funny shapes?), and they ask practitioners to approach their yoga practice with a sense of humour. Before any of us can learn to fly, we will all have a few false starts (and, if you’re anything like me, the occasional faceplant!), and this workshop will give you the tools to learn to embrace both the moments of flight and the inevitable falls along the way.

Join Becky for her workshop on Saturday, 24th June from 1:30 – 3:30, which is now available for booking. All levels welcome – beginners and more experienced yogis alike!

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Becky completed her teacher training at PYC under the guidance of Stewart Gilchrist. She has continued to seek out the best teachers across the world to train with including David Swenson and Mark Kan. She teaches physically and intellectually challenging vinyasa yoga classes that place primacy on building a steady, strong ujjayi breath. Becky has regular classes at the Power Yoga Company, learn more about her by visiting her website.

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