Come Fly With Me! Yoga Arm Balances

1
Crow Pose (Bakasana)

How to Do Crow Pose
Crow Pose - Bakasana. DC Photo/Photodisc/Getty Images

Arm balances always look amazing (as in, how'd she do that?), but once you get the hang of your first one, the others follow comparatively easily. We'll show you how the poses follow certain patterns and build off one another to get you flying high.

Most people start with crow pose (bakasana). Crow offers an excellent opportunity to learn where your center of gravity is and how to use that knowledge to keep yourself from tipping over. Practitioners who are new to arm balances often underestimate how far forward you need to lean in order to get your feet off the ground. Other common issues in crow are putting the knees to the outside of the upper arms instead of using the arms as a shelf. Make sure to also start with your butt high. If it's too low it weighs you down. 

2
Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Woman in Side Crow pose (Parsva Bakasana)
Ashley Corbin-Teich / Getty Images

Once you feel comfortable in crow, the natural next step is to work on side crow. There are actually two versions of this pose. People usually first learn the pose with the hips on one arm and the knees on the other. This is a pretty stable position that may even feel easier than regular crow. In the more advanced version pictured here, the legs have moved over to just one arm, leaving the other one free. You can straighten both legs out to the side for an extra flourish.

3
Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

Woma in eka pada koundinyasana I yoga pose.
Denise Klier / Getty Images

To do eka pada koundinyasana I (which translates to, but is never called, one-legged pose dedicated to the sage Koundin) you have to begin in side crow. From there, extend the bottom leg out to the side. Simultaneously straighten the top leg but also shift it behind you to point toward the back of your mat. Keep both feet engaged (either pointed or flexed) throughout to keep the legs active.

4
Hurdler Pose (Eka Pada Koundinyasa II)

Young woman practicing eka pada koundinyasana II (hurdler pose)
BJI / Getty Images

You'd think from the name (eka pada koundinyasa II) that this pose would flow out of the previous one but it's actually a completely different approach. However, you can still trace the balance basics back to crow pose. This pose also introduces the motion of "back-packing" your leg onto your upper arm. This means getting your thigh up as high as possible toward your shoulder as if you were wearing your leg as a backpack. It's going to come up a lot in the next few postures. 

5
Elephant's Trunk Pose (Eka Hasta Bhujasana)

Eka Hasta Bhujasana - Elephant Trunk Pose
Ann Pizer

Backtracking to the backpacking idea for a minute, elephant's trunk pose is the place to get comfortable with this position. It really is a lot like throwing your leg over your shoulder, or realistically as close to your shoulder as possible. It's also important that your leg doesn't just hang out there but actively hugs your arm. Then extend and strongly engage your other leg and press into your palm to lift yourself off the floor. This pose is great preparation for more arm balancing. 

6
Eight Angle Pose - Astavakrasana

Yoga practitioner in astavakrasana
Mike Powell / Getty Images

Astavakrasana follows directly from elephant's trunk. Once your leg is high on your arm and hugging it tightly and your butt is up, you can begin to hook your ankles together and shift you chest forward toward a parallel position with the floor. 

7
Arm Pressure Pose - Bhujapidasana

Arm Pressure Pose - Bhujapidasana
Ann Pizer

Continuing with our backpack imagery, in bhujapidasana you're wearing your legs on both shoulders. Hooking the ankles in front helps make a tidy little package, which is easier to lift off the ground. 

8
Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana)

How to Do Firefly Pose - Tittibhasana
Firefly Pose - Tittibhasana. MichaelSvoboda/E+/Getty Images

From bhujapidasana, you just straighten your legs to come into firefly. It's a tough transition, however, because you're letting go of the tidy little package. It's a lot harder to manage your legs when they are on their own. That's why it's key to really squeeze your arms with your legs the whole time. It's ok to begin with bent arms and legs and work on straightening them over time. 

9
Flying Crow Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)

Flying Crow - Eka Pada Galavasana
Ann Pizer

Flying crow is entered through a pose called eka pada utkatasana, also known as figure four because that's what the legs look like. You have to be pretty comfortable in both pigeon and crow pose to pull this one off. If you have those prerequisites, work on really grabbing your upper arm with your opposite foot where it crosses over. Your arms act as a shelf for your front leg and if you lean forward enough, your back foot flies off the ground. 

10
Dragonfly Pose

Dragonfly yoga pose
PM Images / Getty Images

We're back to the riffs on side crow with dragonfly (see the leg extending out to the side?), though the entry is slightly complicated by the fact that your other foot is essentially standing on your upper arm. You need to set this up before you take your feet off the ground. And guess what? You'll be coming through figure four again to get there. In fact, you can still see the figure 4 in the legs here. It's just tipped on its side. 

11
Scale Pose (Tolasana)

Woman doing yoga in scale pose (tolasana)
Phil Payne Photography / Getty Images

Scale pose is dependent on two things: major core strength and the ability to sit in lotus.  It's actually much more difficult to pull this one off if you can't come into a full lotus because having the legs contained (remember our tidy little package from above) makes them easier to lift as a unit. 

12
Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)

Man in Peacock Yoga Pose (Mayurasana)
David Sacks/Getty Images

Peacock is actually pretty different from all the other arm balances shown here because of the required arm set up. The elbows must meet under your stomach with your hands turned back. It's still about finding your center of gravity but the fulcrum has changed position so it doesn't follow the crow or side crow model.

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