L Pose Handstand Training

L Pose Handstand Training

Activate Core & Hip Flexors

handstand prep

L POSE HANDSTAND TRAINING

We’re all aware about the importance of taking baby steps when we have a bigger goal we’d like to achieve. L Pose Handstand Training falls under that very category when it comes to taking steps towards Handstand.  Matt refers to L Pose as the “first entrance to handstand.”  Before you take flight, practicing L Pose in different planes is one of the best ways to really prepare and understand the biomechanics involved in the posture.  Practicing L Pose on your back provides a more controlled opportunity to learn how to really engage the hip flexors and core muscles.

Handstand and meditation online yoga classes

HANDSTAND & MEDITATION

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

BREAK THROUGH MENTAL & PHYSICAL BLOCKS

  • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
  • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
  • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
  • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
  • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

SALE PRICE: $168.00

MORE INFORMATION

THE MYTH OF THE CORE

Core strength might be the first thing you believe you need to develop while preparing for handstand.  There’s no doubt that this is a necessary part of the equation, but if you’ve conquered the action of the “push” in the shoulders (shoulders up towards your ears), Matt explains that the use of the core is a refinement only when the shoulders are out of alignment.  If this is the case, you’ll have to utilize your core a lot more to keep your back straight and possibly pull the legs from behind you.

WATCH THE VIDEO: L POSE HANDSTAND TRAINING


CORE MUSCLES & HIP FLEXOR ACTIVATION

What is the core?  The core muscles are a great deal more than the superficial muscles of the rectus abdominis.  When it comes to handstand, a large part of the focus are the deeper core muscles (the psoas major and the iliacus, also referred to as the iliopsoas).  These muscles are a key component when it comes to stabilizing the pelvis and thighs in a handstand. With L Pose as the first entrance to handstand, an awareness of the importance of the activation of the hip flexors is paramount.

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

IMPLEMENT THESE ACTIONS: L POSE ON YOUR BACK 

Here are the cues for L Pose handstand on your back:

  1.  Take your arms overhead (be sure to actively lift your shoulders up towards your ears)
  2.  Straighten your knee as you pull one leg closer to your chest.    It’s the strength of the hip flexors that will help you to bring this leg as close as possible to you.  
  3. The opposite leg stays close to the floor with your heel only about 1 cm from the ground
  4. Pull your front ribs down (this will engage your abdominals).
  5. Continue to pull the top leg close to your chest without lifting the bottom leg up 

The desired outcome is to maintain all of these actions simultaneously.  L Pose handstand training on your back lays the foundation for when you’re ready to explore the shape in other planes (including other postures like Warrior III). It also helps you to feel the alignment in your body.  Drawing your rib cage into the floor for example, creates the pattern of the stacking required above your pelvis.

STRENGTH

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  • Strengthen your core, back, hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, legs, and arms
  • Learn creative ways to strength train within the context of a yoga practice
  • Increase mobility by balancing your strength with oppositional muscle groups
  • Joyful accountability to help you reach your practice goals

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THE GROUNDWORK

Groundwork?  In this case, the pun is intended.  L Pose handstand training literally has you on the ground in order to lay a solid foundation.  Essentially, it can take the fear out of the equation.  Going upside down can be quite intimidating.  Approaching the “bigger goal” of having a handstand practice by utilizing bite size drills and techniques can give you the confidence to progress to the next level.  You have to crawl before you can walk and this is essentially the chromatic way.  When you take this approach, you gradually build upon each layer and strengthen the neuromuscular connection. Handstand training becomes more approachable when you prepare your body via time, patience, and effort.  If you’d like to build on this foundation, take action by registering for Matt’s current immersion Handstand & Meditation.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Handstand & Meditation Immersion

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NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

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KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

KICK UP INTO

HANDSTAND 

Master 3 Key Actions 

alignment

HANDSTAND—3 KEY ACTIONS

“Squeeze in, turn in, tuck the tail.” These are the 3 key actions for handstands that Matt explains are a must. These may sound like simple cues, and they may even be easy to execute if you’ve already mastered kicking up into a handstand; however, if the pose is brand new and/or you’ve been working at it but still can’t “crack the code,” doing these 3 key actions in addition to all the other steps to prepare yourself may be what you’re missing. Layering on the specific techniques and muscle activations that Matt lays out for you is an essential part of your journey to kicking up into Handstand.  

It’s impossible to skip the steps required when the intent is to kick up into a handstand position. This actually pertains to any posture, but if you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll know how much he stresses that it’s the foundations and the repetition of those foundations that really prepare the body for the desired outcomes. When you repeat these actions over and over again, you build the patterns into your body so that when it comes time for more robust movements and shapes, your body will respond.

 

Handstand and meditation online yoga classes

HANDSTAND & MEDITATION

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

BREAK THROUGH MENTAL & PHYSICAL BLOCKS

  • Learn the most effective drills to safely build your Handstand
  • Practice essential meditation techniques to break through mental barriers and build confidence
  • Improve focus and breath support right side up and upside down
  • Build strength and the necessary skills for balancing Handstand
  • 12 classes: All levels appropriate
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all
  • Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you

SALE PRICE: $168.00

MORE INFORMATION

HANDSTAND PREPARATION 1 & 2

Here are the steps for Handstand Preparation 1: 

  1. Place your hands on the ground
  2. Set up your blocks behind your forearms
  3. Straighten your elbows 
  4. Elevate the scapulae (push the floor away and bring your shoulders up to your ears)
  5. Lift your heels as high as you can

Handstand Preparation 2 is a continuation of the process and includes lifting one leg up.

Here are the steps:

  1. Inner leg lifts up to the sky as high as you can
  2. Look up to the lifted leg; when you do this, it’s common for your weight to shift back. Your weight needs to go forward
  3. Lean forward into your fingers (or more specifically, into the metacarpals)
  4. Lift the bottom heel as high as you can 
  5. Push through the arms (lifting the shoulders up)

What muscle engagements are happening? The gripping of the ground leads to activations in the muscles in the forearms. The elevation of the scapulae leads not only to the activation of the muscles of the shoulders (deltoids) but also to the contraction and use of the trapezius muscles. 

This action of elevating the scapulae also helps you avoid shoulder impingement.

As you lift the shoulders up, you are getting longer through the sides of your body, which creates length and stretch through the latissimus dorsi; however, it’s the upper fibers of the trapezius that you want to strengthen in order for you to rely on the strength there rather than on the stretch in the latissimus dorsi. Additionally, contracting the abdominals will assist in bringing the ribcage back and into better alignment, reducing excessive spinal extension. The action here is to contract the abdominals while expanding. You can do this by pulling your front ribs down as you continue to push strongly through your hands.

WATCH THE VIDEO: KICK UP INTO HANDSTAND

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

HANDSTAND PREPARATION 2 WITH A CHAIR

Before we dive in, be sure to use a chair that is stable and steady on the ground. Matt can use a rolling chair due to his many years of experience in the posture. This is important, because once you set your hands on the ground, you place 1 foot on the chair prior to the required muscle engagements. The chair should be secure for you.

Once you have 1 leg on the chair, Matt walks you through the same steps as in Handstand Preparation 1 & 2. However, there are some slight differences when you use the chair. Matt cues you to feel as though you are pulling the chair towards you, while the top leg stays away from the wall.

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KICKING UP INTO L-POSE HANDSTAND

When your foot returns to the ground, it’s easy to feel very heavy towards your foot, so leaning forward into the hands is imperative.

Now, Matt stresses that the ability to balance in “L-Pose Handstand” is a must. This means keeping 1 leg low. If you can balance there, this can translate into sending both legs up to the sky. Remember those 3 Key Actions for Handstand from the beginning? 

  1. Squeeze in
  2. Turn in
  3. Tuck the tail

What do these actions mean, and why are they important?

Once you’re in a handstand position, you have to stop the movement of your hips; otherwise, you will be thrown off balance. In this stage of maintaining your balance, squeeze in means squeezing your legs together (activating the adductor and abductor muscles). Turn in means to internally rotate the thighs (activating TFL, pectineus, and hip flexors). Finally, tuck the tail (posterior tilt of the pelvis) helps to activate the hamstrings, the glute muscles, and hip extensors). Doing all of these things will help to stabilize the legs in Handstand.

With all of this, there is still so much more to this posture. Matt’s next immersion, Handstand and Meditation, begins September 7th. Gain deeper insights into what is required of both mind and body by registering for the immersion.

See you on the mat!

The 200 Hr. Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

The 300 Hr. Advanced Teacher Training: Click Here to See the Next Start Date

Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Anatomy Of Arm Balances

CHOOSE YOUR PATH

NEXT TRAINING BEGINS FEBRUARY 26, 2023 ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN
NEXT TRAINING  BEGINS FEBRUARY 18, 2023. ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN

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Down Dog: Avoid Shoulder Impingement

3 Steps to Avoid Shoulder Impingement

in Downward-Facing Dog

Should You “Relax Your Shoulders” Away From Your Ears?

In my previous blog, “The Yoga Cue That Could Be Destroying Your Shoulders,” I explained how taking the arms up overhead while dropping our shoulders down our back could be a recipe for shoulder impingement. Many teachers use Downward Dog as a “resting pose.”  In my experience, I have found that “relaxing” in Downward Dog is quite often the reason for most shoulder issues but can easily be rectified with the 3 cues I provide in the video and photo breakdown below: 

  1. Externally Rotate the Humerus
  2. Pronate the Forearms (not directly related to the shoulder but balances out Step 1)
  3. Elevate the Scapula 

Elevation of the scapula happens when you lift your shoulder blades upward, which is like “shrugging” your shoulders, or when you excitedly reach your arms up to the sky. We naturally let our shoulders lift when our arms go up, but since many instructors cue the opposite, it is easy develop a pattern that does not serve the health of our shoulders. In addition to the verbal cue of “soften your shoulders,” gravity also causes issues if we don’t actively resist when we are in postures like Downward Dog, Forearm Stand, Handstand, or in a jump forward. My suggestion is to strengthen the muscles that elevate the scapula (upper trapezius and serratus anterior being the primary ones) in order to develop the pattern that can help to avoid shoulder impingement.

Many people cringe when I suggest strengthening the muscles that lift the shoulders up, saying something like “but my shoulders are stuck up by my ears, shouldn’t I relax them down?” The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that muscles hold tension when they are weak. Your shoulders are likely up by your ears because of stress, rather than excess strength . . . unless you are a world champion bodybuilder . . . then ignore this. We also have muscle-holding patterns, which means that when we hold our neck, head, and arms in one position for most of the day, it will cause the muscles to become accustomed to holding those positions, and as a result you will be somewhat stuck in that shape. Simply pulling your shoulders back down will not relax the trapezius; rather, it could cause more stress, and the muscle could become more aggravated.

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BUT ISN’T IT IMPORTANT TO RELAX MY NECK?

Relaxing is undoubtedly important, and it will help release tension in your mind and body. At the same time, muscles relax from being activated properly and then released. You have certainly experienced this after engaging your muscles in a good workout or yoga class and then the incredible relaxation afterwards. Stretching a muscle can help release tension at times, but more often than not, I find active engagement or passive shortening of a muscle is far more effective. When a muscle is healthy and strong, it is better able to relax.

Follow the 3 easy steps in the video below to avoid shoulder impingement, and you will grow stronger in your trapezius muscles and rotator cuff.

Maintaining Joint Space

Research indicates that externally rotating the humerus helps to move the supraspinatus tendon away from the impingement area under the acromion process. Essentially this means that by rotating your arm bones outward (biceps turn forward) you are less likely to pinch the the soft tissues that run between your arm bone and the shoulder socket. 

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  • Part 2: Learn to Balance Handstand
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Other Helpful Muscle Engagements

Research also shows that activating both the biceps and triceps at the same time  can actually support creating more space in the glenohumeral joint  (where the arm meets the shoulder socket). You can do this by actively pushing the arms straight, and then try to squeeze your hands toward each other like a bull dog.   It is challenging to do oppositional muscle engagements so this takes a bit of exploring. First work on straightening the elbows and activating the triceps. When you squeeze your arms toward each other you will also get the added benefit of activating the adductor muscles which can also support more space in the shoulder joint.

DOES THIS APPLY TO HANDSTAND AS WELL?

Your shoulder joints do not know the difference between downward dog and handstand – aside from the gravitational pull, the shoulders are in the same alignment in downward dog as they are in handstand, this is called flexion. When the arms are flexed over head, you are at risk of impingement. The only difference is that in handstand you have to compete with gravity and so you will need to increase your efforts. You will find much more on this subject in the online course titled Handstand Part 2: Balance.

Step 1 - Externally Rotate the Arm Upper Arm Bone

Rotating the humerus externally when the arm goes up over head can help to avoid the impingement interval in the joint. One of your rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, runs through the glenohumeral joint (under the acromion process and above the head of the humerus). This muscle helps to lift the arms up from tadasana, but because of its location it is easily pinched if the arms go over head but the shoulder blades don’t follow the movement. Downward dog is often the culprit- the weight of the body on the shoulders requires that we put effort into the posture to push the ground away, however with cues like “relax your shoulders” and “soften” we often release the appropriate muscular action required to maintain space resulting in shoulder impingement. In plain English – Externally rotate your arms (triceps rotate toward your face) and you will maintain more space in the joint and less potential for impingement. 

Step 3: Upward Rotation of The Scapula

From the outer line of your shoulder blades press through your hands into the earth. When you elevate your shoulder blades toward the ears from the outside line of the arm, the bottom wingtip of the scapula begins to rotate out and up – this is known as upward rotation of the scapula. As a result of upward rotation your shoulder blades rotates and angles itself to allow the arm bone to be overhead without a collision of bones in the joint, creating less possibility of impingement. 

Step 2: Pronate the Forearm

When externally rotating the upper arm bone you will notice that the lower arm (forearm) will go along for the ride and rotate as well. This results in an increased pressure in the outside of the hand and wrist. To evenly distribute the weight to the whole hand, simply pronate your forearm, by rotating the inner forearm and hand down toward the ground. Many teachers will stress this by asking you to press your index finger and thumb down. Depending on your range of motion in your radial ulnar joint,  you may not be able to press the inside edge of your hand down and maintain external rotation of the shoulder. My suggestion is to turn the hands slightly outward if this is the case. Learning to rotate the forearm in opposition of the upper arm bone can be challenging, but through mindful repetition you will be able to do it, and you will feel an increased strength and stability from it. To Strengthen your wrist, I highly recommend Handstand Training

The 3 Actions

While I have broken this down into 3 steps, with time and practice it can be 1 step and the 3 actions can happen all at once. To build muscle coordination it is useful to separate the actions and practice them individually. Though I created a definitive order to follow, know that it is beneficial to mix up the 3 steps and put them out of order. You may find another combination to work better for your body! The dotted red line above is to indicate the path of the bottom wing tip of the scapula. If you do not do push the bottom wing tip will wind up closer to the spine, it is helpful to video yourself to see where your shoulder blades are on your back. 

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Depression of the Scapula

Pulling your shoulders down away from the ears is the opposite of everything I have mentioned in this post, however it is an important action to work on especially for arm balances like side plank because depression creates stability when the arms are at or below shoulder height.

When Can I Relax My Shoulders?

One of the best parts about getting stronger with shoulder elevation (upward rotation) is that the muscles of your upper trapezius will become more supple and be able to relax more easily. Just like after working really hard in a yoga class you feel that complete relaxation in your body, each of your muscles experience that after being strengthened. There are plenty of opportunities to relax your shoulders down your back – just not when you reach your arms overhead. So when you are sitting at your chair you can think shoulders move slightly back and shoulder blades relax downward. When you are in a strong posture like crow pose and your upper arms are not over head, you can even work on strengthening the muscles of depression of the scapula. My philosophy on the body is that there are no wrong actions or muscle engagements, there are just appropriate and inappropriate times to use them.

A great rule of thumb you can take with you: when in doubt just let your shoulders follow your hands – if the hands go up, let your shoulders go up, if they go down let them go down, if you reach forward let them go forward, etc. Enjoy your exploration, thank you for stopping by!

-Matt

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When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

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Avoid Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder Impingement

The Yoga Cue That Could be Destroying Your Shoulders

 

“Relax your shoulders”

There probably isn’t a single yoga teacher out there, myself included, who hasn’t used the verbal cue “relax your shoulders away from the ears.” This cue can be totally innocent and helpful to point out unconscious patterns related to stress or posture, but it can also lead to some serious shoulder injuries when the arms are overhead. Shoulder Impingement is common amongst dedicated yogis, and many people have blamed chaturanga as the culprit. It has become more and more obvious, however, that downward dog is where most students are creating the issue. To be clear, downward dog is not the issue, it is the way in which many students do the pose that causes shoulder impingement.

When we take one arm up overhead, eventually the shoulder blade and collar bone have to lift and rotate in order to maintain space in the joint. If you pull your shoulders down while your arms go up, you are not allowing the necessary rotation that allows you to maintain space. As a result, you will cause pinching or friction in the joint space where muscles, tendons, and subacromial bursa run through. If you continue to force this action repeatedly you can expect pain or injury.

You are most likely fine in standing poses simply because you’re not likely to force your arm up high enough to create the compression or impingement. Most people unconsciously bend their elbows when they reach up with their arms in poses like tree pose or warrior one – this gives the illusion or feeling that the arms are reaching up vertically while still keeping their shoulders soft.

On the other hand, in poses like downward dog, the shape itself in combination with its relationship to gravity makes it challenging to maintain space in the joint unless you understand how to elevate your shoulder blades toward your ears, and protract them away from each other. These two actions in combination with external rotation of the upper arm bone (triceps/armpits turn toward face) will create upward rotation and help to maintain space in the joint. Rather than offering the cue “relax your shoulders”, many yoga teachers give an amazing hands-on adjustment that indirectly creates more space in the shoulders. If you have had your hips pushed up and back or thighs pulled back then you know the feeling, but you probably were sensationally distracted by the stretch in your hamstrings. What actually moves your hips up and back if you don’t have the assistance of your teacher is the elevation of your scapula – think shrugging your shoulders.

 

HANDSTAND TRAINING

2 PART COURSE FOR STRENGTH & BALANCE

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  • Part 2: Learn to Balance Handstand
  • Techniques, anatomy and drills to gain mastery on your hands
  • Easy to follow, step by step approach
  • Find weak points and make them your strengths
  • The most efficient & effective course to access handstand
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When you elevate and upwardly rotate your shoulder blades you will not only bypass impingement, but you will increase your range of motion. This is also the key to getting out of the banana back handstand or forearm stand. With these actions, you give yourself the opportunity to have enough range of motion or “flexibility” that allows for the arms and rib cage to be at the same angle. This is definitely easier said than done. When you are upside down and have the entire weight of your body, you have to be strong enough to elevate your scapula. Picture this, you are standing on your feet, you reach your arms up overhead and then you shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. Then your entire body weight is placed on your hands. Your shoulders would want to fall down. This is basically what it feels like to do a handstand at first. With the right exercises, you will get stronger. If you are looking for exercises to help build strength and awareness in your shoulders I highly recommend The Handstand Strength Training video, which provides amazing exercises to build strength specific to poses with arms overhead.

To sum it up, try allowing your shoulders to rise up whenever you lift your arms overhead. Watch the video above to gain a clearer understanding of these actions

So Why Have I been told to relax my shoulders?

The cue to relax your shoulders is great when we are in postures where the arms are out to the side or lower. In Warrior 2, depressing the shoulder blades down the back can be stabilizing and strengthening. Postures like chaturanga and other various arm balances are also great opportunities to work on the depression of the scapula. When the arms are overhead such as down dog, handstand, and forearm stand there is fairly great risk in pulling your shoulders down, and there is a great opportunity to develop health in the trapezius muscles when you elevate the shoulders upward. 

Other Helpful Muscle Engagements

Research also shows that activating both the biceps and triceps at the same time can actually support creating more space in the glenohumeral joint  (where the arm meets the shoulder socket). You can do this by actively pushing the arms straight, and then try to squeeze your hands toward each other like a bulldog.   It is challenging to do oppositional muscle engagements, so this takes a bit of exploring. First work on straightening the elbows and activating the triceps. When you squeeze your arms toward each other you will also get the added benefit of activating the adductor muscles which can also support more space in the shoulder joint.

Step 1 - Externally Rotate the Upper Arm Bone

Rotating the humerus externally when the arm goes up overhead can help to avoid the impingement interval in the joint. One of your rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, runs through the glenohumeral joint (under the acromion process and above the head of the humerus). This muscle helps to lift the arms up from tadasana, but because of its location, it is easily pinched if the arms go overhead but the shoulder blades don’t follow the movement. Downward dog is often the culprit- the weight of the body on the shoulders requires that we put effort into the posture to push the ground away however, with cues like “relax your shoulders” and “soften” we often release the appropriate muscular action required to maintain space resulting in shoulder impingement. In plain English – Externally rotate your arms (triceps rotate toward your face) and you will maintain more space in the joint and less potential for impingement.

Step 3: Upward Rotation of The Scapula

From the outer line of your shoulder blades, press through your hands into the earth. When you elevate your shoulder blades toward the ears from the outside line of the arm, the bottom wingtip of the scapula begins to rotate out and up – this is known as the upward rotation of the scapula. As a result of upward rotation, your shoulder blade rotates and angles itself to allow the arm bone to be overhead without a collision of bones in the joint, creating less possibility of impingement.

Step 2: Pronate the Forearm

When externally rotating the upper arm bone, you will notice that the lower arm (forearm) will go along for the ride and rotate as well. This results in increased pressure on the outside of the hand and wrist. To evenly distribute the weight to the whole hand, simply pronate your forearm by rotating the inner forearm and hand down toward the ground. Many teachers will stress this by asking you to press your index finger and thumb down. Depending on your range of motion in your radial ulnar joint,  you may not be able to press the inside edge of your hand down and maintain external rotation of the shoulder. My suggestion is to turn the hands slightly outward if this is the case. Learning to rotate the forearm in opposition to the upper arm bone can be challenging but through mindful repetition, you will be able to do it and you will feel increased strength and stability from it. To Strengthen your wrists, I highly recommend Handstand Training

The 3 Actions

While I have broken this down into 3 steps, with time and practice it can be 1 step and the 3 actions can happen all at once. To build muscle coordination it is useful to separate the actions and practice them individually. Though I created a definitive order to follow, know that it is beneficial to mix up the 3 steps and put them out of order. You may find another combination to work better for your body! The dotted red line above indicates the path of the bottom wingtip of the scapula. If you do not push the bottom wing tip, it will wind up closer to the spine. It is helpful to record a video yourself to see where your shoulder blades are on your back.

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Depression of the Scapula

Pulling your shoulders down away from the ears is the opposite of everything I have mentioned in this post, however it is an important action to work on especially for arm balances like side plank because depression creates stability when the arms are at or below shoulder height.

When Can I Relax My Shoulders?

One of the best parts about getting stronger with shoulder elevation (upward rotation) is that the muscles of your upper trapezius will become more supple and be able to relax more easily. Just like after working really hard in a yoga class, when you feel that complete relaxation in your body, each of your muscles experience that after being strengthened. There are plenty of times to relax your shoulders down your back – just not when you reach your arms overhead. So when you are sitting in your chair, you can think shoulders move slightly back and shoulder blades relax downward. When you are in a strong posture like crow pose and your upper arms are not overhead, you can even work on strengthening the muscles of depression of the scapula. My philosophy on the body is that there are no wrong actions or muscle engagements, there are just appropriate and inappropriate times to use them.

A great rule of thumb you can take with you: when in doubt just let your shoulders follow your hands – if the hands go up, let your shoulders go up, if they go down let them go down, if you reach forward let them go forward, etc. Enjoy your exploration, thank you for stopping by!

-Matt

 

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The Key To Arm Balances

The Key to arm Balances

Learn the secret to balancing on your hands

 

The Secret is Simple

Finding ease in arm balances can seem like a mystery and it can be frustrating to figure them out while struggling to breathe in positions that feel constricting. The secret to arm balances is simple, but it is not always easy to put into action. Picture a balance scale, the old-fashioned kind. When both sides are even, the scale is “balanced.” There is no difference between a balance scale and your body, but it’s visually harder to understand. The center of the scale is where your hand meets your wrists.

Let’s think about crow pose for a moment. You will see in the picture to the right (or below if you’re on mobile or a tablet) a red line to show you where the shaft of a balance scale would be. I call the hips and legs the “back side” of the pose, and the heart and head the “front side.” In order for the back and front side to be equal we must lean forward quite a bit. This presents a bit of fear for many yogis, and for a good reason! You could easily lean too far, too fast. This is why it’s important to build strength in your fingers and wrists. The primary muscles that stop the body from leaning too far are the flexors of the wrists and fingers. I call these muscles “The Breaks,” and much like driving any vehicle, you will not feel safe without them! For this reason alone it’s super important to strengthen the breaks so that you build trust in yourself. As your trust builds, you will be willing to lean forward more and more into the strength of your wrists.  In my Handstand Training video, I provide some of my top exercises for “the breaks.”

When most people first try to lean forward they actually tend to sink, softening the elbow joints and melting the shoulder blades toward each other. This will make the posture heavy and will actually make it harder to balance. To be sure you aren’t doing this, film yourself or better yet find a teacher or friend to support you with visual coaching.

yoga arm balance with goats
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yoga pose all 4's wrist strengthener

Step 1 - All Fours with a Block

First work with a block behind the forearms on all fours. To be clear this is a deep extension of the wrist, so be mindful. If you feel that your muscles are straining, back the block up an inch. The idea here is to grip the ground with your fingers which will activate the flexor muscles. Because the hand is in extension, the flexor muscles are elongated significantly, so gripping the ground could prove to be challenging.

chaturanga with block for wrist strength

Step 2: Chaturanga with a block

The next step is to work on lowering from plank to chaturanga with the block directly behind the forearm. I recommend only going down a few inches and trying to hold. You will notice that in my chaturanga and crow pose my elbows are only slightly bent. This will make it easier to stay lifted and light. The same is true for the fingers; keep gripping the ground! To Strengthen your wrist, I highly recommend Handstand Training

crow pose wrist strength and balance

Step 3: Crow Pose

Crow pose is significantly more challenging, so if this is new for you be sure to work with a teacher first (and a landing cushion would be an intelligent choice if you ask me). Apply the same action but go slower. Grip the ground and apply the breaks, then lean into that resistance. If you are more proficient in arm balances, you can try this in a posture like Ekapada Koundenyasana 2  or flying pigeon.

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Avoiding Wrist Pain

Wrist pain is common when people first start their yoga practice or arm balance practice. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, but it probably means the muscles that surround the joint are not strong and probably not balanced. The wrists are not a muscle you can simply work really hard a few times and see positive results. More likely you will strain the muscles if you go that route. Instead spend small amounts of time practicing these exercises but do them often. This is how I train my own wrists and I have had much success with feeling good over the course of 12 plus years of practicing handstands and arm balances.

Thank you for reading and watching! if you have questions, comments or requests please share them here!

-Matt

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