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So, you’ve been able to lift off into crow pose and now are curious about how to spring back into your chaturanga from this arm balance, and also how to transition out of many other arm balances potentially. This blog provides some tips for those of you who are wanting to integrate this transition into your power practice.

    Something to remember is that when you are springing back you don’t want to be shooting back to a plank (straight arms), but rather to a chaturanga (bent). Often when I see students spring back to plank (whether it be from chaturanga or in a traditional sun salutation), there is a dip of the hips/bowing of the back that occurs that isn’t great for the spine. It is also just less efficient. So from crow or crane pose, to land in chaturanga the arms will have to bend deeper to a 90 degree angle as the legs shoot back. As the arms squeeze in to the sides of the body, I almost perceive it as the arms ‘catching’ the torso on the way back.
    This one can differ from practitioner to practitioner, but I have always found it best in my personal practice to take a strong inhale in my crow, and then on the exhale I shoot the legs back powerfully into my chaturanga. I do this as it is easier for me to access the activation of of my mula bandha and uddiyana bandha (pelvic floor and lower abdominals) on the exhale. These locks/muscles are required to support the spring back. However, some practitioners prefer to spring back on the retention between the inhale and exhale, so the spring back happens on neither breath, but in the pause just after the inhale. This is a valid choice as it is also possible to form a strong lock of the bandhas on the retention breath as well. The main thing I do suggest is to choose whichever gives you more power to shoot the legs back strongly and squeeze the thighs together. Imagine you are punching the wall behind you with your feet or thrusting your legsback. A lack of commitment to the spring back and floppy legs is what equals landing on our knees halfway instead of back on our toes, and a lack of commitment in the upper body (not squeezing the arms in to the ribs) is what results in falling on our belly.
    This tip and the next I recommend trying out either during your class practice  if there is time when your teacher offers crow, or at the end of your usual studio practice or, if at home, after at least a few rounds of Sun Salutations first. You need to have already done some chaturangas first in order to spring back into one, right?! Towel slides are great to prep your core and arms for a spring back. You may have seen me doing them at the start of the last arm balance workshop video in May. You will need to come off your mat onto the floorboards so you have a slippery surface available. Come into plank pose on the floorboards with a sweat towel underneath your feet. From this plank position at first keep the arms straight and bend your knees to drag your feet in so you end up with your knees in toward your arms like in crow pose, then extend them back still with arms straight. Once you get comfortable with this straight arm version, we then move on to the chaturanga (bent) arm version. This time start from the top of the mat. You begin with the knees up against the backs of your arms with your feet on the sweat towel. As you slide the legs back this time bend your elbows into chaturanga as you slide back, then push back up into plank and repeat the initial exercise, pulling the knees in to touch your arms. Practice this until it becomes more comfortable. The next layer is to have the feet off the floor in crow and have the towel waiting beneath you to then do the same thing. As your feet drop to the towel, you slide your legs back as you bend your arms to chaturanga. Finally, you start to do it more dynamically; the breath and becomes a lot more powerful, and the movement quicker.
    A great one that you can absolutely integrate into your Power practice is the use of a strap to support your crow to chaturanga transition. If using the straps at Kula, you want to make sure you are using a strap with a metal buckle (not plastic). The straps with the metal buckle are able to ‘lock off’. Before class, create a strap with a loop in it wide enough so that if you were to place that loop around both of your arms, just above your elbows and hold plank, it wouldn’t slip down. Any issues with how to lock off the strap or how big your loop should be, ask your teacher before or after class. When the teacher indicates crow pose, grab your strap and place it around your arms, and do your crow with the strap. If you feel you are not quite ready to start shooting your legs back yet, also place the sweat towel ready to go under your feet to incorporate the above exercise with this one. Remember, from crow pose you take an inhale, and as you exhale you’re shooting the legs back, squeezing the thighs together as powerfully as you can while hugging the elbows to your side. I mentioned earlier that it’s like the elbows hugging the ribs ‘catch’ your chaturanga. Using the strap we get a literal experience of being caught. The strap acts as our brakes so we don’t end up with our belly on the floor. But you still must commit through the legs!

~ Emily Thomas

Emily will be teaching the tips and transitions above, as well as many other fun, new arm balance poses in her ‘Arm Balances to Advance Your Power Practice’ workshop next Saturday August 19th 2017 from 2pm-4pm. Come join for some play time in some new poses!

About the teacher: Emily is a teacher who never came from an athletic background before starting yoga. She has embodied all levels of yoga experience, and because advanced poses took her time and practice to get into, she has a great understanding of how to teach them from the ground up. She loves to teach by giving detailed, step-by-step instruction in a workshop environment on poses that usually seem overwhelming or are skimmed over in classes, and nurturing her students as individuals. She takes great pleasure in watching her students discover the rewards of yoga and surprise themselves with what they are capable of.

Kula Yoga has a beautiful hot yoga studio on Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn, Melbourne. Kula offers ‘Hot Yoga’ classes for detoxification, dynamic power yoga ‘Flow Yoga’ as well as a gentle ‘Light Yin Yoga’ option. Beginners through to advanced students are welcome to all classes. Kula also provides prenatal & postnatal yoga classes, and provides Melbourne workplaces with group corporate yoga programs to build employee health, fitness and wellbeing, and school yoga programs. Kula also runs an annual ‘Kula Cruise’ yoga retreat sailing from Bali to Lombok & the Gili Islands. Find out more on our website www.kulayoga.com.au.  Or follow us:
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