Pincha mayurasana–the elusive forearm-stand. While this pose boasts multiple physical, mental and emotional benefits: helping to develop better balance and shoulder and core strength, cultivating inward focus, mental stillness, and self-confidence (because hey, this is a pretty freakin’ hard pose), it’s hard to fully reap these benefits…when you can’t even properly get into it. Yes, you can use a wall for balance. Yes, you can ensure proper shoulder/elbow-alignment by securing a strap above the elbows and firming the hands into a block on the ground. But that’s a lot of extra stuff. And I don’t know about you, but I strongly believe less is more–the less props/wall space I have to claim before each class, the more I’m able to focus on my practice, my breath, myself.
Using the Yoga Wheel for your pinch will ensure proper shoulder-girdle alignment and a heavier reliance on your core, shoulders, and back muscles over momentum (no good things ever come from flinging yourself up into the air) for better balance and muscle-development. Come into a tabletop position, gripping the Yoga Wheel in between your hands (with your thumbs on the inside of the face of the wheel opposite you). With this firm grasp on the wheel, root the forearms down, noticing how the Yoga Wheel has essentially “locked” your elbows in at shoulder-width. This grip on the wheel encourages the shoulders to externally rotate, and helps to keep the elbows from splaying out. Additionally, if you’ve struggled in the past with keeping the thumb and forefinger rooted on the ground (it’s tricky, externally rotating your shoulders while internally rotating your forearms!), the wheel provides a solid, responsive surface for your fingers and hands. After establishing this grounding in the forearms, notice the engagement of the shoulders. Press into the elbows, and follow that sense of lift down the body: lift the armpits away from the ground, tuck the toes to lift the hips, and focus on reaching the chest towards the knees. Keep the shoulders pulled up away from the ears allow for space in the neck. Feel free to stay here, working on developing shoulder, chest, and core strength in your Dolphin pose. If you want to take this further however, take a deep bend in one knee, walking that foot in closer–like you’re in a deep runner’s lunge. Flex through the foot of the straight, activated leg, and practice hopping up (taking as many as you need, and switching sides as necessary!) into your forearm-stand. It’s important to keep that foot flexed to drive up through the heel; the action of flexing your foot activates the whole leg (inner and outer ankles, calf, and quad), and makes hopping up much easier to control.
The Yoga Wheel will make the transition from forearm-stand to Scorpion much easier to control. Starting in pincha mayurasa, engage the core, pulling the belly into the spine to protect the lower back. Continue gripping the Yoga Wheel to ground the forearms to lift the chest and inner shoulders as you bend both knees, eventually bringing the toes to rest on the wheel. Press the balls of the feet onto the wheel. Instead of collapsing into your flexibility (hello lower back), your ability to press the feet into the wheel activates the legs, glutes, and lower back–making this pose much safer, sustainable, and strong backbend.