Peloton Instructor Anna Greenberg Breaks Down Yoga Balance Poses

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So you’re ready to try out a balancing pose for the first time but need to find your footing first? While attempting a brand new type of movement in your fitness journey can be exciting, you will inevitably have a lot of questions along the way. So to set you up for success, we went to the pros.

Why Should I Try A Balancing Pose?      

Balancing poses can teach us a lot. Over time, they allow our bodies to physically be ready for those wobbly moments in class, but mentally they can have the same effect when we face challenges off the mat too. “Balancing poses teach us how strong we are,” says Anna. “They show us that we can pick ourselves up when we fall, we can persevere and not let ourselves get knocked off course by getting literally knocked over.” These poses enable you to exercise your resilience, take chances and support yourself whatever the outcome may be. “I say this all the time in my classes: ‘Look for the balance, but always be willing to fall,’” says Anna. “You will never progress if you don’t take the risk. Falling is not the worst case scenario–never losing your balance means you played it safe.” So what are you waiting for? Below, Anna walks us through three different balancing poses that you can start working on right now.

Warrior Three

“This is such a powerful posture that teaches core integration (staying connected into your center) as your limbs extend away,” says Anna. “One of the keys to balancing is the ability to stretch your awareness throughout yourself, to the places you can’t see with your eyes, kind of like developing a sixth sense.” The back leg in warrior three is the same as the lifted leg that will take you upside down in any inversion.

How To Practice:

  1. Start with your hands on a yoga block on its tallest height. Reach one leg back to hip height, no higher or lower. Flex your foot and point all five toes down without dropping your hip. You can even use your gaze here to help organize your back leg if your hands are on blocks.
  2. Once you’ve got your back leg set, extend through the top of your foot but keep your toes open–this is a classic yoga foot. The point/flex combination activates the front and back plains of your leg, the long top of the foot creates lightness and length, making your leg feel infinite, while the open toes keep the energy channels open and allows the inner line of your leg to reach out through your big toe knuckle. Flexing the back foot is a good tool to help organize your leg in the space.
  3. Imagine you’re squeezing a block between your thighs, hug your hips in toward center, draw your lower abdomen towards your spine and up towards your heart like a jeans zipper you want to keep zipped.
  4. Play with reaching the opposite arm forward of the leg reaching back. This is a great way to work on staying connected to center and really noticing where your body wants to disconnect as your limbs extend fully which is very challenging.
  5. Next, try reaching both arms straight back. Maintain the lift of your abdomen in and up with an open chest and long neck. Having your arms back by your sides is easier than reaching your arms straight forward, there’s less weight on your spine. Try this first and focus on finding the balance on one leg.
  6. Finally, reach both arms straight forward. Tap into the length to find lightness in this challenging shape! Reach your inner back leg further back as your arms reach forward, hug those outer hips in and as always keep your low belly zipped up!

Crow Pose

“This is one of my all time favorite postures!” says Anna. “It unlocks an incredible inner lift and lightness and is a great place to start becoming comfortable with balancing on your hands and shifting forward to take flight!” While many people may fear Crow pose, it’s a crucial part of the mental and physical practice of yoga.

How To Practice:

  1. A modification that’s helpful for many people is placing the balls of your feet together on a low wide block. The elevation the block provides helps to get your knees higher up towards the backs of your shoulders if they tend to land closer to your elbows. The higher and more compacted into your center you are, the better the lift. The block is also a nice launch pad to help you shift your weight forward into your hands without having to lift your seat way up.
  2. You want to think “cat shape” as you lift your knees to rest on your upper arms. Your upper back should feel like the highest point, so it feels as if your are taking flight instead of an airplane crashing down. You may also like to place a folded blanket or pillow in front of you as a crash pad. Nothing wrong with being prepared–face plants happen!
  3. Shift way forward and bring the weight towards your finger pads and claw them into the ground like crazy. This will help take the weight out of your wrists as you shift forward and will act as tiny walls to help you balance!
  4. Let your knees be wide and stay low at first when shifting the weight forward so you have somewhere to squeeze in and up and lift from. Your legs are working as much as your arms here. The squeeze of your knees against the backs of your arms and curling your pelvis under (a la cat pose) are what makes crow pose work once you’ve got your feet off the ground.

Inversion L Handstand

Even though a handstand may seem like the scariest or hardest inversion to balance in, it’s actually the best one to start with. Before trying to balance on the delicate bones of your neck, or getting into the intricate balance of shoulder opening and strength required for head and forearm stand, building the strength to hold yourself up in a handstand at the wall is a must. “I love L shape handstands because you’ve got the feedback of the floor and wall to help you integrate your limbs into your trunk and find proper alignment that you can take into your handstand,” says Anna.

How To Practice:

  1. Come to a down dog with your heels up the wall, walk your hands a couple inches in so your dog is shorter. Walk your feet up the wall hips distance wide to higher than the height of your hips. Your body will create an L shape, not a plank shape. Firmly press your hands and feet into the floor and the wall in order to not slide down.
  2. Press the floor away and drive your shoulders down through your hands to bring your arms into their full length and lift your trunk as up towards the ceiling as possible.
  3. Press your feet into the wall, engage your quadriceps, make your legs as straight as you can and draw your abdomen in and up towards your heart (keep that jeans zipper closed)!
  4. Play with a warrior three leg–reach one leg straight up, extend from the inner line of your leg up through your inner foot and keep your hips even and your abdomen drawing in and up. Notice how the lift of your leg creates a feeling of lightness!

Handstand At The Wall

Take your Inversion L Handstand a step further by practicing a full handstand by a wall.

  1. Practice lifting into handstand at the wall. Have your hands a hands distance away from the wall and spread through your fingers and root down through your knuckles and finger pads (a bit like the crow pose claw). Imagine there’s a rainbow between your thumbs, gaze at the center of it or just let your head hang straight down.
  2. Gazing too far forward will stop you from lifting. Come into a short down dog with your weight shifted forward, lift one leg and think of the back leg of warrior three, hug your hips in and reach up high through the inner line of the lifted leg.
  3. Bend your bottom knee (keep that top leg straight at all times) and take some hops removing both your feet from the wall. Drive your shoulders through your hands, draw your low belly in and up towards your heart. Think shoulders over your hips, hips over your shoulders so that feet over your head will follow.
  4. If you get up, scrub your heels up the wall and let your head hang down. Reach up through your inner legs and feet like crazy. Aim your tailbone in and up like an arrow pointing to your feet and your abdomen in and towards your heart. Keep your arms straight and your shoulders driving down through your hands to keep your trunk as long and lifted as possible. Try to come down with as much control as you did on the way up!

Peloton Members can always learn more about these poses and many others via the Yoga Basics Library, accessible on web via your Peloton account and on Peloton Digital.