Lighten Up With Crow Pose: Yoga Arm Balance Fun

Arm balances are some of yoga’s funnest, flashiest poses. Since most people spend their days with both feet firmly planted on the ground, the ability to elevate them while balancing on your hands is always going to look impressive. But yoga arm balances are more than showy party tricks. They expand our conception of what is possible. By lifting yourself up, you become uplifted and then uplifting. When your body and spirit feel heavy and low, you can lighten your load and your mood with a little balance play.

Crow Pose is the first arm balance that most people tackle, probably because it’s a pretty straightforward one, requiring no added twists or spectacular feats of flexibility to distract you from your battle with gravity. Because your body stays relatively compact in this pose, it’s a good place to figure out how to manage your weight without the added complication of legs sticking out here and there. Once Crow becomes comfortable, a whole host of other arm balances may soon be more accessible.

When you find that sweet spot, your feet will actually fly off the floor.

Crow Vs. Crane

In modern postural practice, Crow is the bent-arm version of this pose and Crane is the straight-arm version. However, the Sanskrit names of these two poses have gotten a little mixed up in our common usage. That’s not unusual for yoga poses in general. As yoga has been disseminated, different teachers have called poses by different names, as well as developed and named their own poses. There’s not really one authoritative reference source of all yoga postures, though we tend to consult B.K.S. Iyengar’s 1966 classic, “Light on Yoga,” when in doubt. In this instance, “Light on Yoga” depicts the straight-arm version of the pose, labels it Bakasana, and explains that baka means crane. Case closed, except that the bent-arm version is often also called Bakasana and translated as Crow Pose. We’re not sure how this Crow/Crane confusion came to be but for clarity’s sake, we’re following the convention of calling the bent-arm version Kakasana, since Kaka means crow in Sanskrit.

Hard Core

While it might seem like you need giant, bulky arms to hold yourself up, arm balances are more about core strength, flexibility, and body awareness, which helps you find your centre of gravity and craftily distribute the load. When everything is arranged just so, your feet can seem to almost float off the floor.

Of course, there has to be something supporting your flight: it’s the muscles in your torso, AKA your core. The core goes a lot deeper than the rectus abdominis (what you’d probably call your abs) to include the pelvic floor, the obliques, the transverse abdominis, the psoas, and the muscles that support your spine. Core strength is the key to yoga’s balancing poses. If arm balances seem out of range at the moment, practicing standing balances will help you build the strength. Even poses where you’re not standing on one leg can be balance challenges. (Ever felt wobbly in a standing pose like Warrior I?) Targeting your core with crunches, planks, and side planks is another way to get stronger.

Crow Pose (Kakasana)

If you are working on the pose, do it every day at home. It’s tough (though not impossible) to get consistent enough practice time in class to have a breakthrough. You may also feel too inhibited about falling to really explore the edges of your balance.

1. To give yourself a firm foundation, start in a squatting position with your palms flat on the floor and shoulders’ distance apart.

2. Come up onto the balls of your feet and separate your knees.

3. Bend your elbows straight back so that your knees make contact with your upper arms as close to your armpits as possible. You may need to move your hands closer to your feet to do this. Just make sure your hands are not coming closer together nor are your elbows winging out to the sides. A strap around the upper arms here is a good way to keep track of your alignment. When you come into the pose, your knees will be resting on the shelf made by your upper arms.

4. Now, you may notice that your butt is still awfully close to the floor. Before you try to take off, you’ll need to lift it up quite a lot. Keep your bent knees resting on your upper arms but straighten your legs until your butt is above your head.

5. Physics dictates that you have to lean forward in order to get your feet off the ground. Figuring out how much to lean is the key to the whole pose, and, indeed, to all arm balances. Look at the floor a few feet in front of you to keep your head up. Keep leaning forward and coming onto your tippiest tiptoes until one foot lifts off the ground. Firm your belly and lift the other foot to join it. Squeeze your knees toward your centre line so they don’t slip off your arms.

6. You may crash-land a few times before you get the hang of the balance. Set up a pillow or two in front of your mat so that you’re not afraid to really lean into it. When you find that sweet spot, your feet will actually fly off the floor. Once you are airborne, bring your feet to touch, tucking your heels up near your butt and keeping your toes active. As you get more comfortable, begin to work toward straightening your arms. When the arms are fully straight, you’ll be in Crane Pose (Bakasana).

Liv’s Tip: When you first start playing with this pose, it’s important to remember that your head is heavy. If you let it hang, it will pull you down, in arm balances and in life. Keep your gaze on the ground in front of you to elevate your head and your mood.

Love,

Liv x

Crow Pose
 -Bakasana

  • Start in Malasana / Squat pose with the feet apart, knees wider than your hips.
  • Place your hands flat in front of you on the floor as if you were in Downward Facing Dog – middle finger pointing forward and with your fingers spread.
  • Firm your hands down, pressing through the whole of the hand and your finger tips.
  • Keeping your elbows bent, lift the hips high.
  • Place your knees on the back of your upper arms as high up as you can, or squeeze the outer upper arms with your knees. Hug the knees and elbows into your mid-line, exhale and round strongly through the upper back drawing your side waist up, using your abdominals.
  • Then, squeezing in and up, bring the weight forward so the elbows end up straight over the wrist, bent at 90 degrees.
  • Inhale, reach the heart forward and let one foot come up, then bring the other to meet it if possible. Bring the heels and big toes together.
  • Stay for about 5/10 breaths all the time pressing firmly through the hands to feel the rebound lift.
  • Exhale and come back into a squat position when you are ready.

Kathryn Budig says the key to this pose is learning to think a bit differently about flight.

This is one of the first “fancy” arm balances I learned to do back when I was chomping at the bit for new challenging poses. My teacher at the time used to teach Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II) so gracefully that I knew it had to be part of my practice. For what felt like a small eternity, I could get my leg onto my arm, painstakingly straighten it, then the hop dance would begin–I’d bounce my back leg like Tigger riding a prayer in hope that it would someday stay elevated in the air.

This is when I was only thinking in terms of up and down. Remember as you practice this pose that, yes, the back leg will go up, but the heart offers itself forward to give the back leg leverage in contrast. The back leg once lifted doesn’t stay put on it’s own–it’s your commitment and energy that turns it into a wing as opposed to that dead fish it normally feels like. So expand your perspective–there is no such thing as just up and down–there is always an extension. Nothing just hangs out–it radiates. And frustration won’t get you further, but laughter mixed with commitment will take you wherever you need to go.

Step 1

Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Lift the right leg up into the air and externally rotate it open from the hip socket–the toes spin out, heel in. Flex the foot. This action will make the left hip want to jut out, so make an extra effort to firm the outer left him in to stabilize the pelvis. Keep the right leg straight and rotated as you start to cut the leg through the air parallel to the ground. For now, keep the shoulders in Down Dog, simply focusing on the hip movement. Return the leg to its starting position and repeat this action 5 times, inhaling as you rotate, exhaling as you extend the leg.

Step 2

If you need a break after the five rounds from Step 1, take one. Otherwise, march on! From the extension, bend your right knee and shift your shoulders directly over the heels of the hands. Keep the arms straight and the upper back rounding. Lightly place the bent knee above the right elbow and hold for one to five breaths. Be aware to keep the pelvis open. It’s easy to place just the front of the kneecap on the arm, neutralizing the hips. Since you want to keep the hips open, take the inner part of the knee to the right arm. (It will make sense by the time you get to Step 4.)

Step 3

From Step 2, keep the inner knee on the arm above the elbow and bend the elbows into a full Chaturanga–elbows above wrists, forearms hug in, shoulder heads lifted, and gaze slightly forward. Keep the ball of the back foot on the ground and stay calm. Take five strong breaths and step back to Child’s Pose. OR if you’re still feeling OK …

Step 4

Keep the gaze extending, dig the fingertips into the ground and begin to isometrically pull through the hands. As the heart extends forward, the rear leg will begin to lighten and lift. Extend the front leg straight (this will require a ton of hip flexor and hamstring engagement–don’t say I didn’t warn you) and straighten the back leg with huge enthusiasm. Spread both sets of toes to keep the line of energy active. Be careful to not let left shoulder drop–keep the shoulder heads even and the gaze straight forward. Hold for a few breaths and step back or swing the front leg back to meet the left. Take a vinyasa and repeat the entire sequence on the left side.

ABOUT KATHRYN BUDIG

Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on her website.

Yoga Arm Balances – Beginner to Advanced

FIND YOUR BALANCE IN ASANA, AND IN LIFE

Achieving balance is hard. Our work, family, friendships and everything else can pull us in so many directions that staying grounded and stable in body and mind is as difficult as it is valuable. In yoga, we recognize that working with physical balance can help us achieve it in other ways, which is why we practice certain balancing poses. By exploring these asanas — while balancing effort and release, breath and movement, body and mind — we learn to bring poise and stability into our everyday lives.

Below you will find many options to explore some of the most common yoga balance poses: arm balances. Arm balances are great places to start integrating balance into your practice and life more expansively. Working on these asanas will help you build stability in your core and upper body and focus and calm your mind. Although arm balances require strength, learning how to direct energy and adjust your technique will teach you to rely less on power and help you find ease and lightness within each pose.

BUILD STRENGTH AT YOUR PACE, LET YOURSELF WOBBLE!

Of course, with all yoga balance poses it’s important to work progressively, so, in this article, we’ve included options ranging from beginner to advanced. At the top of this page, we list a series of short tutorials that teach you how to move from easy arm balances into progressively more difficult ones as your strength and skill increase. After that is a list of Yoga Classes that integrate arm balances and cater to a variety of skill levels. Then at the bottom, you will find a 21-Day Yoga Challenge that focuses on arm strength, as well as a series of Peak Pose Challenges that guide intermediate and advanced yogis safely toward some of yoga’s more difficult arm balances.

Challenging and fun, arm balances are exciting poses for any yogi to explore. And, if you find yourself wobbling, just remember yoga isn’t about nailing every pose. The poses might be physical but the practice is holistic! Whenever you’re on your mat it’s important to keep a balanced perspective!

ARM BALANCE TUTORIALS

Learning to Balance on Your Hands
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Beginner
Duration: 3:11
It can take time to feel confident when moving into an arm balance. This video uses Crow Pose (Bakasana) to introduce the arm balance fundamentals – controlling your weight with your fingers, using your core muscles to stabilize and lifting away from the ground with energy!

Crow Pose
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Challenging Beginner
Duration: 2:13
Try this pose first if you’re new to arm balances. Crow pose (bakasana) helps you understand how to use your shoulder, arm and core strength to create energy that moves up rather than down. You also learn how to control your center of gravity while strengthening your hands, arms, shoulders, inner thighs and abdominal muscles.

Scales Pose
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Challenging Beginner
Duration: 3:32
Scales Pose (tolasana) is a simple pose that teaches you, once again, how your core strength connects to the energy and power in your arms and shoulders. You will also need to build the strength in your lower body to create the lift, particularly the hips and hip flexors.

Side Crow Pose
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Intermediate
Duration: 3:18
This is a more difficult variation on Crow Pose, and, surprisingly, very different. This pose is great for shoulder and chest strength and is a perfect hand balancing pose if you’re up for a little more challenge.

One Leg Over Shoulder Pose
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Intermediate
Duration: 2:15
This pose gives one a feeling of power and grace. To rest the leg over your arm requires a significant amount of hip flexibility and to raise the body from the ground demands quite a bit of shoulder, core, hand and arm strength.

Peacock Pose
Instructor: David Procyshyn
Difficulty: Challenging Intermediate
Duration: 2:44
This is a very challenging arm balance that effectively tones the abdominals, improves digestion and strengthens the arms, wrists, hands and back.

Firefly Pose
Instructor: Fiji McAlpine
Difficulty: Advanced
Duration: 2:42
This advanced arm balance pose incorporates core strength with flexibility in the legs. Once the lower body is lifted from the mat, the pose further strengthens the muscles in your hands, wrists and shoulders.

YOGA CLASSES FOR ARM STRENGTH

Yoga for Shoulder Strength and Stability
Instructor: Fiji McAlpine
Difficulty: Challenging Beginner
Duration: 15 min
This is a great foundational class for those looking to learn how to stabilize the shoulders properly when doing anything that requires shoulder strength, whether you’re doing yoga or not. It’s short and sweet, making it accessible to any busy yogi.

Hatha Yoga for Arm Strength
Instructor: Anastasia Hangemanole
Difficulty: Challenging Beginner
Duration: 27 min
This nicely-paced hatha yoga class strengthens your arms while giving you much-needed breaks between the intense parts. Anastasia’s clarity and enthusiasm make this challenging class a joy.

Chatting Chaturanga: A Tutorial
Instructor: Tracey Noseworthy
Difficulty: Challenging Beginner
Duration: 17 min
Another great foundational class, this one focuses on a common pose in vinyasa-style yoga classes called chaturanga. It isn’t an arm balance pose, but what you learn will apply to everything you do when supporting the body with your arms.

The Space Within Us with Fiji McAlpine
Instructor: Fiji McAlpine
Difficulty: Challenging Intermediate
Duration: 39 min
In this beautiful vinyasa flow, Fiji helps you experience lightness, expansion and space in your practice as she guides you through poses including challenging arm balances, headstand and foot balances.

Superfly Dragonfly
Instructor: Crista Shillington
Difficulty: Advanced
Duration: 64 min
Crista gradually builds intensity in this class, leading you toward maksikanagasana (grasshopper or dragonfly pose in english). It’s one of the most difficult balancing asanas in yoga, since it requires a lot of core and shoulder strength, as well as flexibility in the legs, hips and spine.

YOGA CHALLENGES

Get Strong! Shoulders and Arms 21-Day Yoga Challenge
Difficulty: Intermediate
Classes: 21
This 21-day yoga challenge satisfies the needs of anyone looking to strengthen their upper body, while fitting a daily practice around a busy schedule.. Challenging classes alternate with more gentle ones and each week finishes with a class focussed on relaxing and stretching to let your body recover. It’s a balanced approach that ensures you develop a stronger upper body without risking burnout or injury.

PEAK POSE CHALLENGES

Peak Pose: Headstand
Instructor: Crista Shillington
Difficulty: Intermediate
Classes: 3
Headstand pose (sirsasana) requires more arm strength and flexibility than many people anticipate. Crista teaches you how to prepare your body, gain the necessary strength and flexibility and move in and out of headstand pose safely. It’s called the ‘king of poses’ for a reason! Nailing it rules!

Peak Pose: Firefly with Fiji McAlpine
Instructor: Fiji McAlpine
Difficulty: Challenging Intermediate
Classes: 3
This pose makes you feel like a superhero when you finally get it! Fiji makes this challenging pose accessible, giving you the tools you need and ample opportunity to practice. Master the technique and everything else falls into place!

Peak Pose: Flying Pigeon
Instructor: Tracey Noseworthy
Difficulty: Advanced
Classes: 3
This 3-class series designed by Tracey leads you to eka pada galavasana, or flying pigeon pose, an arm balance that makes you feel like you are truly flying! . Her creative flow helps open your body, strengthen your core and shoulders and prepare you mentally for the peak in class number three. You can do the classes back-to-back or over a 3 to 5 day period.

Peak Pose: Forearm Balance
Instructor: Fiji McAlpine
Difficulty: Advanced
Classes: 4
Fiji uses 4 classes to teach you the key aspects of pincha mayurasana, or forearm balance, a pose striven for by many dedicated yoga students. Her attention to detail and clarity will help you understand body positioning, focus and how to gain the strength you need to move into and hold a forearm balance.

Peak Pose: Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I
Instructor: Crista Shillington
Difficulty: Advanced
Classes: 2
Crista presents an efficient, creatively designed and thorough progression toward a very difficulty pose, which in english is called “pose dedicated to the sage koundinya i” and in sanskrit eka pada koundinyasana i. Her playful energy and gradual approach make this 2-class series an absolute joy for all levels, even if you don’t get to the peak pose in class 2.

MORE RESOURCES

We hope you enjoy this exploration into yoga balance poses. If you would like to take a dive into foot balances, check out our article:

Learn to Master Standing Balance Poses

6 Arm Balances for Every Yoga Practice Level

Arm balances. They’re an iconic part of the modern yoga scene. The pictures we see on magazine covers, advertisements, and Instagram inspire yogis all over the world every day with their sense of strength, grace, and focus.

Sure, they look incredible, but are they worth all the hype? This yogi says ABSOLUTELY!

Balancing poses help us connect with the present moment. When you add the challenge of balancing on our hands or arms instead of our feet, the degree of mental focus required escalates. You can’t easily get up into a Handstand if you let the mind drift to thoughts about what you’re making for dinner!

Arm balances can also help to increase feelings of self-confidence, courage, and inner strength. And they’re a playful way of approaching our practice and our bodies with a sense of curiosity and fun!

Arm Balances for Different Levels of Practice

There are loads of different arm balances to choose from, some are suitable for beginners, while some poses offer complexities and challenges that make them suited only to experienced yogis.

A key theme for pretty much all arm balances is a strong core. You also need to build up strength and stability in the wrists* and explore your sense of courage and playfulness. The good news is, there’s an arm balance available for all different levels. Here are a few of our favourites.

Entry-Level Arm Balances

1. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Credit: Jaclyn Nguyen

Crow is a really good starting point for an arm balancing practice. It can help newer yogis realise how strong and coordinated they are, so it’s a great way of boosting confidence and of course having fun! It tones and strengthens the arms, shoulders, core, and the mind.

If you’re fearful of falling forward (which can happen!), place a pillow out in front to help you feel a bit more confident.

Tip: Create a more stable foundation by spreading the fingers and pressing down with the whole hand, including the five finger pads, and gaze out just in front of the hands.

2. Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Credit: Julia Lee

This variation adds another layer of complexity, though is still very accessible. It’s a great pose for building strength in the wrists and arms, as well as the oblique muscles at the side of the core.

There are a couple of variations that can alter the degree of difficulty, and once you’ve mastered your Side Crow, it can create a great foundation to progress further to poses like Koundinyasana.

Intermediate Level Arm Balances

1. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Credit: Kaitlin Daddona

Do you see how easily and effortlessly kids float up into Handstand? That fearless sense of playfulness means they don’t over think it, they just do it. This pose builds our sense of courage and can help us overcome fear, which often comes up when we go upside down.

Fear of falling is common and can be reduced by practicing at the wall and/or with a partner. Handstand helps develop strength in the arms and shoulders, and after you’ve been practicing a while, this pose can help you feel a whole lot lighter and more in tune with your body.

Tip: Make sure you warm up and open through the shoulders first and like Crow, use the whole hand (five finger pads included) and take your gaze out in front of your hands to help you conceptualise a more stable foundation.

2. Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)

This is an impressive-looking arm balance that you’ll often see yoga teachers or studios using in their advertisements. It’s challenging but probably more accessible than a lot of people think.

It takes practice to balance with the body and legs in a non-symmetrical position, but because you come in to the pose from a seated position, it makes it a little less scary than other arm balances.

It pays to be relaxed right from the start so you can avoid any rigidity in the mind that might prevent you from expressing this beautiful, uplifting pose.

Tip: With most arm balances, the chest needs to come forward once you’ve got the feet hooked. This is often a stage that scares people. To help this, you can imagine a light shining within your heart centre and let that light guide you forward.

Advanced Level Arm Balances

1. Scorpion Pose (Vrschikasana)

Credit: Kino MacGregor

Backbends can be daunting, and so can going upside down and balancing on your hands. This pose combines all three, so needless to say, it’s in the advanced category for a reason.

Traditional Scorpion is done on the forearms, though it is also performed in Handstand variation. Both poses strengthen the entire body and create flexibility within the spine, while cultivating a deep level of focus and concentration.

It’s recommended that you attempt this one under the guidance of a suitably qualified teacher.

2. Visvamitrasana (Sage Visvamitra’s Pose)

Credit: LetsGlo

As you can probably tell from the pic, this pose helps to build incredible full-body strength, particularly in the core, arms and legs. It also opens the hips, hamstring and inner thigh muscles. And with all that intensity, correct alignment is really important.

The power, strength, and stability it cultivates are bound to deliver a mega boost of self-confidence.

Arm balances can help you become lighter in your attitude and stronger in your body and mind. They can add a really playful and fun element to yoga and also show us what we’re made of!

*Note: It’s important to remember that most arm balances are strong on the wrists, so if you have any wrist issues or injuries, practice with caution and speak to your yoga teacher about modifications and poses that are suitable for you.

6 Yoga Poses To Help You Learn Arm Balances

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Arm balances are a fun way to explore your strength and add dimension to your yoga practice. For yogis who are just beginning their arm balance practice, it’s important to start simple by practicing an arm balance that, while challenging, also allows you to explore the key components of most arm balances: core activation, muscle control, and letting go of fear. Bakasana – also known as Crane pose – is a beginner-friendly arm balance that will teach you the basics to advance your arm balance practice when you’re ready.
Let’s take a deeper look into one of the most common arm balances in yoga: Bakasana. Crane pose gives us the opportunity to find strength and balance through our arms and core, and teaches us how to active muscle groups to hold these balances.
Below are 6 yoga poses you can practice to build your body up to Bakasana (the sixth pose of this article) and play around with shoulder engagement and transferring your weight forward.

Utkatasana – Chair Pose

This posture starts to warm up the core, while still allowing you to feel grounded. Start in this posture by feeling the abdominal engagement when you lengthen the tailbone down. As you tuck the tailbone, feel your abdomen start to fire up – this is the feeling you want when you begin to lift into Bakasana.

Navasana – Boat Pose

Navasana is another great posture to strengthen the abs and help you find your balance. Start with your seat on the floor and start by lifting your legs in the air. The next step is to lift your arms up by your side and straightening through your spine. Hold this posture for thirty seconds and feel your lower abdominals ignite. If you can hold this posture for at least 30 seconds, you are ready to move on to the next pose.

Supta Bakasana – Reclined Crane Pose

This is a great posture to feel the exact core engagement you need once you are in the arm balance. Start by lying on your back and squeeze your knees as high up your arms toward your armpits as you can. Flex your toes and push your arms up toward the ceiling. This posture is one of my favorites for students who still have fear of getting up in the arm balance.

The ground is a great way to physically feel the muscles you need to use while you’re in the arm balance. You can safely feel the muscle engagement and gain an understanding of what the posture is going to be like once you are ready to try it.

Bakasana Variation – Crane Pose Kickstand

Once you start feeling more comfortable with attempting the arm balance, start on your tiptoes. Bring your knees toward your armpits and start shifting your weight forward. Keep looking as far forward as you can and try to feel the same abdominal engagement you felt in the previous postures. Once you feel your body weight tipping forward, try lifting your right foot off the floor and see how that feels. Then switch feet and maintain awareness of your lower abdominal muscles. Having this kickstand is helpful for students who are scared of shifting too far forward.

Supported Bakasana – Supported Crane Pose

Once you are ready to start flying both your feet off the ground, use a block as a marker of how far forward you need to shift. Blocks are wonderful props to get in the habit of using with many arm balances because most students aren’t aware of just how far forward you need to go to find the balance. A good measurement for the block is a foot in front of your hands. Try to avoid bringing all your weight to your forehead in this posture – instead, try to find an equilibrium in your core.

Bakasana – Crane Pose – You are ready!

Once you have conquered the previous steps, you are now ready for Bakasana – congratulations! This is a challenging and sometimes “scary” posture because you have to focus your body weight more forward than we are typically used to. If you do fall in this posture, keep in mind that you are only a foot off the ground.
To find the balance in Bakasana, you have to shift your body forward and keep looking as far forward as you can. If you start to feel “wobbly” or off balance, try playing with your weight in your fingertips. Also, keep in mind that you have to really round your upper back (similar to Cat pose) to find the correct muscle engagement.

A common problem people experience with Crane pose is pain in their wrists. This occurs when we put the entire weight of the body in the arms and wrists instead of engaging the Serratis Anteriorm, which is a scapulae muscle. It originates from the inside of the shoulder blade between the shoulder blade and the ribs. This muscle is responsible for securing the shoulder blade to the torso and moving the shoulder blade in the right position as the arm moves through a range of motion. Proper engagement of this muscle is key to Bakasana and protecting the wrists.

With correct engagement of the Serratis Anterior, you wrap your shoulder blades around your body (protraction of the shoulder blades) which then lifts your back and brings the weight out of your hands. The physical work goes into your abdominals and upper back. By bringing the weight of your body and the work into your abdominals and upper back, that is where you can eventually shoot back to Chaturanga or press up into handstand.

Arm balances take time, patience, and lots of practice. It won’t happen overnight, and that’s ok. Enjoy the journey, have fun, and get ready to amaze yourself! Good luck everyone!

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Photos: Tiffany Ayuda / Life by Daily Burn

You probably learned to balance at the ripe age of two. But honing the skill is essential to your overall fitness and sports performance as an adult, too. Rebecca Weible, owner and director of Yo Yoga! studio in New York City, says yoga urges us to improve our balance, posture and evenly distribute our weight in our feet. “Look at your own shoes. You’ll notice how worn out the heels are. Is one sole more battered than the other?” Weible says.

Mastering balance-focused yoga poses is one way to bring awareness to your weight distribution, while also building strength, stability and alignment. “It makes a huge difference when we’re running, weightlifting, doing plyometrics or performing agility moves,” Weible explains. Whether you’re doing tree pose or Warrior III, “your whole body needs to be involved with yoga,” Weible says. Check out these standing yoga poses to help you improve your balance and coordination.

RELATED: Why Range of Motion Matters for Your Strength Training Goals

5 Standing Yoga Poses for Head-to-Toe Strength

If you’re new to yoga, Weible recommends using a wall or chair to help you stabilize. “The goal is to notice the wall and lighten your touch. You can move from having your entire hand on the wall to just your fingertips,” she says.

1. Tricky Kitty

This beginner’s yoga pose is an excellent progression to standing positions, like tree pose or Warrior III. Weible likes this pose for balance because you’re much closer to the ground, and your body is immediately forced to find balance.

How to: Get into tabletop position with your knees directly below your hips and your arms and shoulders are perpendicular to the floor (a). Step your right foot back and keep it tucked (b). As you inhale, simultaneously lift your left hand and right leg off the floor. Your left fingers are pointing straight in front of you and your right foot is flexed and forms a straight line with your back and head (c). Focus on a point on the ground and keep your chest lifted and open so your upper body could provide support (d). As you exhale, slowly bring your right leg and left hand back down to the ground in tabletop position (e). Repeat the same movement on the other side.

RELATED: 5 Yoga-Inspired Shoulder Openers

2. Tree Pose

Tree pose reminds us to engage our core muscles, specifically the obliques, in order to maintain alignment from head to foot. Bringing your hands to prayer (mudra) isn’t just for aesthetics; it helps keep your chest open and extends your upper back so you stand straighter. Need to modify? Weible suggests placing the tip of your toes on the mat or resting your heel against the standing ankle for more support. From there, your foot can flutter to the calf and work its way above your knee on your thigh, but you should never have your foot on your knee, as it’s too straining for that joint.

How to: Stand in mountain pose (tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart, hands by your sides, palms facing forward (a). Begin to shift your weight onto your right foot and bend your left knee (b). Slowly grab your left ankle with your left hand and place it against your inner right thigh, pressing your left foot sole with your toes pointing to the ground (c). Engage your core as you place your hands in prayer pose (mudra) (d). Focus on a point in front of you and hold for two or three breaths before bringing your left foot back down to the ground (e). Repeat the same movement on the other side.

RELATED: 5 Restorative Yoga Poses to Ease Your Muscles (And Your Mind)

3. Eagle Pose

The binds in eagle pose help loosen the joints for balance and improve mobility. Weible says as people age, their balance starts to change, but poses like eagle can help prevent falls. This pose forces you to keep your hips square, even when you’re balancing on one leg, so you’re not shifting side to side.

How to: Stand in mountain pose (tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart, hands down by your sides, palms facing forward. Make sure the toes on your left foot are firmly ground on the floor (a). Have a slight bend in your knees and slightly sit your hips back as you lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh. If you can, cross your right foot around your left calf, too, or use a block to rest your right foot on (b). Bring your hands to eye level and cross your right arm underneath your left. Then, cross your right forearm over your left to bring your palms together (c). Keep your hips square and your chest lifted and open so that your head, shoulders and hips are all aligned (d). Unbind your arms and legs, and repeat the same movement on the other side.

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4. Warrior III

You’ll feel like a single-leg warrior once you master this challenging balance pose. But your back leg doesn’t have to be lifted crazy high, Weible says. Start with a lower lift that’s closer to the floor, while keeping your spine straight. When you’re balancing, your standing leg can be a little bent to have a more grounding effect.

How to: Get into a lunge position by stepping your right foot behind you, landing on the ball of your foot, with your left knee bent in front, pressing your feet firmly into the ground. Make sure your right knee doesn’t touch the floor (a). Simultaneously straighten your left leg as you lift your right foot behind you. While some people lunge forward, it can ruin your balance, so try straightening your front leg instead (b). Keep your right foot flexed and imagine it pressing against the wall behind you. Your right leg should be lifted and aligned with your hips and back so it’s parallel to the ground (c). Bring your palms together in prayer and hold for two or three breaths (d). Step your right foot back down to the ground and come to standing.

5. Dancer’s Pose

The key to balancing in this elegant pose is to keep your hips square, even as you open the hip, Weible says. Because your arms are lifting your foot, it helps to open your chest and have a slight back bend. Bridge or boat pose are great progressions to practice before moving onto dancer’s pose because they open the hips and stretch the quadriceps.

How to: Stand in mountain pose (tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart, hands by your sides, palms facing forward (a). Begin to shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left heel toward your butt, bending your left knee (b). Reach your left hand behind you to grab the outside of your left foot or ankle. Be sure to keep your hips square and your chest lifted (c). Lift your left foot up and back so that your left thigh and left arm are parallel to the floor (d). Raise your right arm at your side with your fingers pointing to the ceiling (e). Hold for two to three breaths before bringing your left foot back down to the ground. Repeat the same movement on the other side.

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Yoga pose balancing knees on elbows

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