Our last Challenge Pose was Scorpion in Handstand and this week we explore it on our forearms. While the tail remains the same, the feeling of the pose can change quite a bit depending on your body. This will be a different shoulder experience for you, so I recommend practicing both styles.
Backbends aren’t easy for most of us, so take this posture with a big dose of patience. Deep backbending requires patience, surrender, and non-attachment to the result. Enter this pose with no picture in your mind, just feeling. Keep your core strong and remember, there’s no rush to the finish line. Enjoy the journey to your full pose and stay balanced, aware, and strong.
This posture is a great way to warm up your back for Scorpion Pose. Interlace your fingers and place your knuckles where the floor and wall meet. Place your forearms onto the ground so that the elbows are shoulder-width apart. Take your gaze slightly forward and curl your legs back into Dolphin Pose. Lift one leg and lightly kick up, bringing your feet to the wall. (Note: Your head stays off the ground—it’s like a Headstand/Forearm Stand hybrid.) Once your feet come to the wall, slowly take the entire length of your legs to the wall so that your feet, calves, hamstrings, and hips are resting against it. Keep your belly engaged and tailbone lifting toward your heels to prevent any compression in the low back. Begin to firm the upper outer edges of your arms in and root down into your elbows. Neutrally drop your head so you’re gazing into the middle of the room and start to bring your head through your arms and chest away from the wall while the legs stay put. This should feel like a pretty amazing shoulder release, and if you feel any pain, make sure to put more effort into firming your outer arms in to protect the rotation of your shoulders. Come back down to the floor.
It’s important to have a good grasp on your Forearm Stand, but the difference between regular Pincha Mayurasana and the Scorpion is the melting of the chest. Instead of kicking up with your fingertips against the wall, take your fingertips 5-8 inches away from the wall (this will depend on your shoulder flexibility and depth of backbend). Come into Dolphin Pose and walk you feet in toward your hands. Lift your dominate leg and lightly kick up bringing both feet to the wall with your feet flexed. Focus on keeping your core engaged and your tailbone lifting. Begin to take your gaze toward the wall and up. Keep your upper outer arms firming in, but let the center of your chest pull forward as if your arms were a gateway for your chest. Try to see the floorboard or above it. Keep your low back lifting the entire time to protect it.
Keep the melting/pulling through action of you chest. Bend one knee and take your toenails to the wall. Bend your second leg doing the same so that your knees are hip-width apart and your big toes touch. Don’t be concerned with how far down your feet go (this can cause you to collapse in your low back). Start small. Push your toes gently into the wall and feel how this allows you to bring your chest forward. If you fall out of the shape immediately you are too close to the wall. Find the balance of how much you bring your chest through versus how much you bend and activate your legs. If this feels good, play around with engaging one of your hamstrings and bending that knee more so you can take your foot away from the wall and closer to your head. With time, try bringing the second foot in as well so you can experience a moment of balance!
If you want to feel balance in this pose you can work step three and practice bringing both feet toward the head with the safety net of the wall. If you are comfortable balancing in the middle of the room, you’ll want to kick up into your Forearm Balance first. Engage your legs and hug them tightly together keeping the toes spreading and reaching toward the ceiling. Start to melt your chest and pull your heart through the gateway of your arms. Keep the upper outer arms firming in and all 10 knuckles pressing down, especially the inner hands. Once you’ve met your chest melting capacity, bend both knees together letting them separate hip width apart but keeping the inner big toes touching. As the feet come closer to your head, keep you gaze forward and up so you can open and lift your chin. Relax the upper back as you engage the backs of your legs to bend deeper. Remember, the goal isn’t to touch your head, it’s to keep your backbend even. To exit, try bringing your legs back up as a team with your core engaged to enter your regular Forearm Balance and then come down into a Child’s Pose.
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 is currently writing Rodale’s The Big Book of Yoga which releases on October 30th. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; or on her website.