How to Tackle Forearm Balance
About 15 years ago, in the months just before I become a military spouse, and long before Pinterest and Instagram existed with their thousands of inspirational yoga photos, I came across an advertisement with a woman in scorpion pose. She was upside down, balancing on her forearms, and touching her feet to her head. I was mesmerized. After my next yoga class I asked the teacher where to even begin with that pose, and he helped me into my first forearm balance.
I moved to our first duty station in Germany with my new husband shortly after that. I tried out some yoga classes, but we were a single car family and I found that it was prohibitive to walk a mile and take two trains just to get to class, so my living room became my studio. Quite a few years went by before I got up the gumption to try forearm balance on my own. It didn’t take me long to learn to kick up at the wall, but balancing in the middle of the room just never seemed to come. I went through fits and spurts of trying to balance without the wall, and I sought out workshops with world-renowned teachers that I hoped would help me unlock the secret.
Finally, last summer, I took an arm balance and inversion workshop with Lisa Martinez. She has an amazing practice and she held the secret that worked for me. Forget kicking up repeatedly in the center of the room hoping to stick the balance just right. Building up strength in the right places is key before trying to balance.
My goal was to get to the point where I could hit the balance in class for 10 breaths, kicking up with each leg. If you’ve been working on inversions, you know that it’s definitely easier to kick up on one side. Here’s how I got there. It took me about two months.
- Practice every day. I set my timer to practice for 10 minutes every single day, interspersing work on the pose with rest in child’s pose. You might choose a different amount of time depending on your base level of strength.
- Build strength. Start in dolphin pose at the wall with your forearms and feet on the ground and your hips lifted in an inverted V shape. Walk your feet in as close as you can to your elbows. This takes shoulder and core strength as well as hamstring flexibility. Inhale, lift one leg. Exhale, kick off the ground with the other leg. Pause with both feet against the wall. Take one foot off the wall, and then the other foot, and hold for as many breaths as you can. Rest in child’s pose. Repeat with the other leg. Continue for the amount of time you’ve designated for yourself.
- Get comfortable with being wobbly. Chances are, you can stand on one foot and naturally wobble without panicking. The same applies when you’re upside down. You’ll wobble. You just have to be strong enough to catch yourself. That’s why you have to practice every day.
- Start adding in some balance work. Once you can consistently balance with both feet away from the wall for 10 breaths, start holding one knee to your chest as you kick up. Take the raised foot off the wall and work on holding your balance while you raise the second leg to meet the first. Hold the balance for as long as you can. Rest. Switch sides. You might find that your feet never touch the wall after awhile.
- Move away from the wall. Once you’re comfortable holding forearm balance at the wall even with some movement brought into the pose, then you’re ready to try it away from the wall. There might sill be an element of luck involved, so make sure to keep up your strength work. You’ll find that over time you’ll start to balance more consistently.
- Keep up the practice. Once you’re feeling pretty confident, you might not practice the pose every single day. But, revisit it consistently so you don’t lose what you’ve gained.
Which yoga pose has taken you the longest to learn?