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ARM BALANCE

 

Balancing the whole body on the hands requires absolute focus, bringing students deeper into a sense of dharana in their asana practice. Arm balance also brings students closer to a deeply held and perfectly rational fear of falling, a fear that is inextricably interwoven with the ego and the desire at least to be in control. This makes arm balances the perfect asana family for cultivating self confidence and humility, because most students will find at least some arm balances very challenging, these can be a great place to explore the practice with a sense of humour and playfulness. 

* As we work through each posture, remember the intricate and infinite layers of integration involved. There's no 'right way'. Here we are playing with how asanas relate to one another, how they work together to open the body, and how they build upon one another to further open and balance our bodies. 

GENERAL ALIGNMENT PRINCIPLES

 

  • Students should have sufficient wrist extension, placing hands flat on the floor and with straight arms, moving their shoulders over them, without strain or pain. 

  • Limited shoulder flexion is one of the primary causes of banana shaped Hand Stands and Forearm Stands.

  • Arm balances require core engagement and strength whilst maintaining suppleness. 

  • Hasta Bandha is the foundation for hand balancing 

 

INTEGRATION & COUNTERPOSE

 

  • In introducing arm balances start with simple variations and preparatory practices. 

  • The wrists are at greatest risk, practice Downward Facing Dog, 4 Limbed Staff and Plank to build strength and prepare for more weight on the hands. 

  • Work on opening the shoulders in preparation. 

  • Sequenced after core work to better feel the abdominal engagement and stability that lends to levity. 

  • Arm balances that require a lot of openness in the hips will need preparing for and so work well as peak postures. 

  • Follow with wrist stretches.

 

GENERAL CONTRAINDICATIONS

 

  • Students with wrist issues, i.e carpal tunnel syndrome, should minimise pressure on the wrists either by refraining from or opting for forearm balances instead until pain free. 

  • These postures also tend to raise the blood pressure and should be practiced with caution by those with heart and circulatory conditions.​

ARM LINES  (AL) 

The AL are divided into four distinct myofascial meridians that run from the axial skeleton to the four quadrants of the arm and four ‘sides’ of the hand —thumb, little finger, palm, and back of the hand. Due to our shoulders and arms being specialised for mobility, the multiple degrees of freedom require more variable lines of control and stabilisation and so more inter-line links. Nevertheless, the arms are quite logically arranged with a deep and superficial line along the front of the arm, and a deep and superficial line along the back of the arm.

 

POSTURAL FUNCTION

 

Given their weight, however, and their multiple links to our activities of daily driving and computer life, the Arm Lines do have a postural function: 

  • strain from the elbow affects the mid-back, and shoulder malposition can create significant drag on the ribs, neck, breathing function, and beyond. 

  • The lines of pull act on the axial skeleton, when the arms are relaxed, as well as the tensile lines that come into play when using the arms in work or sport, support the body as in a push-up or yoga inversions, or in hanging from the arms, as in a chin-up.

 

Common postural compensation patterns associated with the Arm Lines lead to all kinds of shoulder problems, as well as arm and hand problems, usually involving the shoulders being protracted, retracted, lifted, or ‘rounded’. These compensations are often founded in the lack of support from the rib cage, which leads us to look to the SPL and DFL for a solution. Carpal tunnel, elbow and shoulder impingements, and chronic muscular or trigger-point pain emerge over time from these postural and support faults.

 

MOVEMENT FUNCTION

 

In myriad daily manual activities of examining, manipulating, responding to, and moving through the environment, our arms and hands, in close connection with our eyes, perform through these tensile continuities. The Arm Lines act across the 10 or so levels of joints in the arm to bring things toward us, push them away, pull, push or stabilise our own body, or simply hold some part of the world still for our perusal and modification. These lines connect seamlessly into the other lines, particularly the LL, SPL, and FL.

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