Teaching an arm balance class can be pretty intimidating. I used to feel pretty scared to teach them to my students. I feared that they would get frustrated with the difficulty of the class, walk out, and never return. Or would fall, hurt themselves, and never come back. As you can see I accumulated a lot of fear over just teaching a basic Crow Pose in class. I finally taught a class when a couple students asked to learn, so I bucked up and did it. Want to know what I learned? My fear was pointless! I spent all this time worrying about if my students would hate me, when in turn they loved it and most actually had lift off in Crow.
I am here to give you six tips to help teach arm balances to your students. All of these, are points to bring up with your class to make them feel comfortable as they practice.
1) Chaturanga and Core Strength
Chaturanga like your life depended on it! This foundational asana is the base for all arm balances. Not only does it build arm and core strength, but it preps your wrists for holding your weight and leaning forward. In many arm balances your weight is moving forward and chaturanga prepares you for that feeling since the weight is only very lightly on your toes. This also strengthens your core and arms, especially for your shoulders and triceps, which are supporting you while you are balancing. Engage your mula bandha (pelvic floor muscles) and uddiyana bandha (abdominals and diaphragm) to help lift you off the ground and make your lower body feel light.
2) Single-Pointed Focus
Drishti, or a focus point, is helpful during any asana. When our gaze is fixated on a certain point, our awareness is drawn to it. This use of drishti allows the mind to focus and move into deeper concentration. The constant use of drishti develops ekagraha, single-pointed focus, an essential yogic technique used to still the mind.
3) Let Go
Let go of fear. Fear only cripples us. Our brains like to sabotage us, and it’s our job to learn to turn it off. It is scary to know that normally what catches you is being occupied in your arm balance. But there are ways to help ease that fear, such as setting up a landing pad with a bolster.
Practice letting go while performing an arm balance. Sometimes it just isn’t happening and you have to let go, walk away, and come back to it. This prevents us forming bad habits in an asana. If you muscle your way through a pose, you may actually be doing it incorrectly and it can lead to injury.
4) Always Breathe
In many asanas we forget to breathe and relax. In any arm balance, exhaling before lifting off will help you feel lighter. Be sure to breathe during your balance as well. Long, deep breaths help steady the body.
Using props can help students attain a pose. Try out these props during practice:
- A wedge underneath the wrists will help support them.
- A block underneath the feet to help lift off in some arm balances.
- Place a strap around your feet or knees to help keep them from splaying in Scale Pose.
- A blanket, bolster, or pillows in front of you can serve as a landing pad or escape route to uneasy, wavering students.
6) Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight
Be comfortable with falling, laugh at it, get back up, and try again. Don’t focus so much on the end result, focus on the process it took for you to get there. In my own personal practice, I sometimes have my camera filming me so I can laugh at my weird falls and noises I make. It makes it all worthwhile! As a teacher, you can share these stories or if you fall in front of your students it’s a great way for them to see that you are human too, you aren’t perfect and struggle at these poses, just like they do!
Share these six points your students as you guide them safely through an arm balance practice and they will be lifting off in no time! Please practice with safety and awareness — and consider what you would have wanted to hear when you were starting arm balances as your teach your students to beat the fear.