Arm balances involve using your hands as your foundation, often with your feet off the ground. They are a powerful addition to your yoga practice, but take time, skill, and courage to master.
These types of balances are a fantastic addition to any practice. Whether you’re new to yoga or more advanced and looking for a fresh challenge – welcome!
We’re going to be covering everything you need to know about arm balances, including:
- The benefits of including arm balances in your practice
- Tips about how to safely progress
- Some common arm balances (as well as how to do them!)
- Variations on each pose.
A note before we dive in: Always approach your yoga practice with mindfulness and curiosity. It’s possible for anyone to be injured, even a veteran.
Progress at your own pace, and most importantly – enjoy!
What Are Yoga Arm Balances?
Arm balances are yoga poses that involve supporting yourself with your hands or arms. You may be picturing a handstand – and yes, some poses can be similar to this!
However, most arm balances actually keep you much closer to the ground. And while they often involve lifting your feet, it’s not a necessity. Any pose where your arms are your foundation can be considered an arm balance.
Benefits of Yoga Arm Balances
Arm balances involve using your hands, wrists, arms, and your foundation. Consequently, they provide opportunities to strengthen your upper body.
Due to their challenging nature, they also give you more confidence and strengthen your mind-body connection.
For beginners, adding arm balances to your practice is a great opportunity to work on whole-body strength.
If you have practiced yoga for some time, you may find that arm balances introduce an element of playfulness that you might be missing in your time on the mat.
Some of the benefits include:
Strengthens Arms, Shoulders, and Wrists
Balances on your hands allow you to develop strength all the way up and into your shoulders. Regular practice will also help to strengthen your wrists, which help you throughout everyday life.
Strengthening your body assists in injury prevention and lowers your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Builds Core Stability
Balances involve a large amount of core work, particularly when you begin to lift your feet off of the ground. Building your core stability improves your balance overall, and helps to prevent injury and falls.
Improves Overall Body Awareness, and Enhances Coordination
Arm balances also give you the opportunity to tap into your mind-body connection.
In combination with your additional strength, you may find better body awareness improves your coordination. Everyday experiences from walking, hiking, sports, or even just running after your kids can become much easier and safer!
Develops Focus and Concentration
Arm balances can be challenging. They often involve bringing deep concentration and awareness to the pose in order to keep steady. Practicing this mindfulness can be extremely rewarding.
Increases Flexibility in Hips, Spine, and Hamstrings
Most balances involve engaging and lifting your legs so that they don’t carry your weight. Over time, these movements help you to create strength and mobility in your hips and spine which you don’t get in standing poses.
Boosts Confidence and Self-Esteem
Many people find that arm balances provide an opportunity to tap into an inner strength.
As arm balances can often feel as though you are going to fall, they offer a chance to overcome your fears. You can then take that confidence with you off of your mat and into the rest of your life.
Challenges Mental and Physical Boundaries
The process of trying something isn’t simply about physical prowess! Strengthening yourself to push past your current limits is very empowering, mentally.
10 Best Yoga Arm Balances
1) Crow pose (Bakasana)
Crow pose is a fantastic starting point or a first ‘full’ arm balance, as you remain daily stable and close to the floor.
- Start in a low squat, placing your hands on the floor in front of you (straight or slightly rotated out)
- Keeping your hips high, rest your knees on your triceps, toes on the floor
- Gaze forward a few feet, and begin to shift forward until your toes feel light and come off of the floor.
- You’ll need to shift forward much further than you’d expect!
- Keep your hips lifted high, as you’ll feel much lighter this way
- Begin practicing this pose by keeping your feet on the floor, focusing just on how it feels to hold your weight on your hands
- You can lift one foot at a time if you are nervous.
2) Side Crow pose (Parsva Bakasana)
- Start in a squat or a twisted figure 4, and twist to place your hands beside you
- Bending your arms, place your outer thigh (legs stacked) on your triceps
- Gaze forward and down, and shift your weight until your feet float off of the floor.
- Try to keep your weight even between both hands, keeping your hips light
- Spread your fingers wide to give yourself a good base.
- If you struggle with spine mobility, prioritize practicing twists such as a figure 4 chair pose.
- Extend your legs to level up this pose!
3) Eight-Angle pose (Astavakrasana)
- Begin in a staff pose, and bend your knee
- Grab it and bring it over your shoulder, or as high as you can
- Place your hands on the floor beside your hips
- Grip your shoulder with your inner thigh
- Brace your core and press your hands into the mat to lift your hips and legs up
- Hook your ankles and press through your heels to straighten the legs.
- Practicing hamstring stretches will help you keep your legs in position.
- Use your core to lift your hips, not your arms.
- Begin by using blocks under your hands as you learn to balance in this pose
- Side crane is a great option to use to build up to this pose.
4) Flying Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)
- Start by standing in tadasana and move to a figure 4 pose
- Hinge at the hips and reach your hands to the floor, framing your standing foot
- Place your shin behind your elbows and wrap your toes around your tricep
- Gaze down and begin to shift forward, drawing your knee in toward you
- Start to lengthen and lift your back leg.
- Place a blanket or pillow in front of you if you feel afraid of falling or face-planting
- You can use a block under your hands or your standing foot if you need
- Practice this pose with the ball of your ‘floating’ foot against a wall until you build strength and confidence.
5) Peacock pose (Mayurasana)
- Start in a kneeling position with your knees wide to give you a solid base
- Place your hands in front of you
- Being your elbows slightly, create a shelf for your upper body
- Press forward and into your palms until your knees lift
- Straighten your legs.
- You can have your hands facing outward slightly if you need
- Start your journey with a plank or four-limbed staff pose
- Rest your head on a block if you struggle to find your center of gravity here.
6) Firefly pose (Tittibhasana)
- Start in a forward bend with bent knees and feet slightly wider than usual
- Nestle your shoulders under your knees as far as possible. Your thighs should be somewhere on your upper arms
- Your hands should be flat on the mat, just behind your feet
- Shift your weight backward, until your feet float
- Straighten your legs and your arms as much as possible.
- Straighten your arms as much as possible.
- Keeping your legs bent and crossing your ankles is a great way to keep the pose a little easier
- To make it more challenging, tip back further than usual.
7) Feathered Peacock pose (Pincha Mayurasana)
- Begin in dolphin pose, or forearm downward facing dog
- Walk your feet forward until your hips are over your shoulders
- Keep one leg active, and extend it out
- Kick up with your other foot, using a little momentum to hop yourself up
- Practice this until you can swing them up lightly
- Keep your alignment strong, and avoid sinking into your shoulders.
- Make sure your elbows stay below your shoulders, rather than opening out
- Try to keep your pine neutral, rather than arched
- Look downwards, between your hands.
- The Dolphin pose is a great beginner variation.
- You can keep your legs more bent or use a wall until you are ready to straighten them.
8) Crane pose (Bakasana)
- Begin in a deep squat
- Place your hands a little way in front of your feet
- Bend your elbow and come up to the balls of your feet, until your knees come up close to your armpits
- Place your knees on your upper arms
- Begin to tilt forward until your toes lift off.
- Keep your elbows tucked in rather than splaying outwards
- Actively press your arms and knees into each other to keep you feeling strong.
- Lift one foot at a time as you find your balance
- To make it more of a challenge, see if you can ‘jump’ from this pose to chaturanga.
9) One-Legged Crow pose (Eka Pada Bakasana)
- There are several options to get into this pose, varying in difficulty
- You can begin as you would a crow pose, and from there work to straighten one leg
- Or, begin with the three-legged dog, drawing one leg into your tricep, and lean forward to float the back leg up behind you.
- This is another pose where you’ll need to learn much more than you’d expect!
- Use a block under one knee as you begin
- Make it harder by coming into it from increasingly difficult positions.
10) Grasshopper pose (Maksikanagasana)
- Begin in a figure 4 twist, with your right foot over your left knee
- From there, place your hands on the ground beside you, about shoulder-width apart
- Keep your right foot on the back of your right arm, twisting so that your knee points upwards
- Looking down, begin to shift forward so that your left foot comes off the floor
- Begin to straighten your left leg toward the right side of your mat.
- Spread your fingers to create a really solid base
- You can keep your hip resting on your left arm as you begin to practice this pose.
- For more of a challenge, start to take your gaze toward or past your left foot.
Tips for Safety and Progression
Arm balances – even beginner ones – are tricky! They take a lot of preparation physically and mentally. Make sure you are always looking after yourself with the following tips:
- Warm up thoroughly. Make sure you are protecting your body by going through several rounds, like a sun salutation, before moving on to more challenging moves. It’s a good idea to tailor your warmup to the asana you want to practice
- Start with basic poses. This will help you to learn what proper alignment feels like, as well as strengthen your muscles. Good basic poses include plank pose, pendant pose, wild thing, and side plank
- Strengthen your wrists. Most people new to arm balances will notice how much pressure it puts on the wrists quickly. Take time in each practice to work on your wrists – even if you aren’t doing arm balances
- Engage your core muscles. These are what will help you to lift your legs up and protect your back in each pose
- Activate your legs and feet. Engaging these will help you to keep focus, and actually make them feel lighter!
A few final practical tips we want to leave you with are:
- Practice on a non-slip surface
- Increase your hold time gradually
- Focus on breathing through each pose
- Work with an instructor if you need it.
And finally, stay patient and curious!
Arm balances are challenging, but that’s half of the fun. If you take your time to work up slowly, you’ll find yourself pushing past your current boundaries quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What yoga pose balances your arms?
Any arm balances will help to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and wrists.
What is the hardest yoga arm balance?
This can vary per person! You can make most balances harder by making them asymmetrical, such as the Feathered Peacock pose or Grasshopper pose.
Why do we do arm balances in yoga?
Arm balances not only strengthen your upper body but help you with overall balance and coordination. They also provide a mental challenge.
What yoga pose has you balancing on your hands?
Common yoga poses where you balance on your hands are the crow pose, peacock pose, and pendant pose.