Greetings fellow at home yogis!
As I said in last week's refresher on the Eagle Pose, improving balance is important. And, I was drawn to this pose because of its promised benefits to increase "balance, poise, and grace."
Back in 1970, when I first began to learn yoga, I found the arm and leg stretch yoga pose in the book, Yoga for Beauty and Health by Eugene Rawls and Eve Diskin. My two copies of this "ancient" tome are falling apart-- the pages are yellowed and frayed. Nevertheless, the teachings in this book are timeless! Most impressive to me was the authors' assertion that:
"Our lack of normal physical activity results in the diminishing of our sense of balance, and it is this loss of the normal sense of balance that is responsible for the impairment of grace and poise..."
However, when you improve your balance with the arm and leg stretch and other balance poses, Rawls and Diskin claiim that you regain natural poise and grace, and in turn, increased self-confidence. Moreover, you gain a "lightness" of being and energy throughout your entire being. I have experienced this myself, even if I have not perfected the pose.
Need any more convincing to try this pose? I would think not! Instructions follow. Enjoy!
Yoga Arm and Leg Stretch
Type of yoga pose: Standing
Body parts targeted: Upper arms, legs, back, and spine
How to do the pose:
1. Stand tall on your mat with your hands at your sides, chest held high, abdomen in and your feet and heels together. Inhale and exhale slowly at least once.
2. Gradually raise your left arm into the air until it is above your head but not completely perpendicular to it.
3. Place all your weight on your left leg.
4. Bend your right leg at the knee and slowly raise your right foot up until you can grasp it firmly, yet gently, with your right hand.
5. In slow motion, inhale deeply and pull your right leg up with your right hand.
6. Bend your body backward at your waist.
7. Move your left arm as far back as is comfortable and without losing your balance.
8. Let your head drop back gently and slowly until your eyes are looking upward.
9. Hold the pose motionless for 5 seconds.
10.To exit this pose, take a few seconds to bring your left arm forward while also releasing your pull on your right leg. Relieve the backward bend of your spine. Come forward gently with your head.
11.Release your right foot and let your right leg descend to a normal standing position. Lower your left arm back down to your side in slow motion.
12.Inhale and exhale slowly for a moment or two and repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Practice time: Start by holding the pose for 5 seconds on each side during the first week and add 5 seconds each week until you can hold the pose for 15-30 seconds.
Number of repetitions: 1-2 on each side
Key benefits from this pose:
1. Develops your sense of balance.
2. Gives your spine a gentle, backward stretch that can be energizing.
3. Relieves and reduces tension in the back and thighs.
4. Increases your poise and grace as you sit and walk—leading to improved posture.
Special hints and my experience with this pose:
Stand tall and erect when you do this pose. Imagine you have the grace and poise of a swan gliding across a placid lake. Learning to maintain your balance during this pose may take a few weeks or months of practice. I have found that keeping my eyes fixed on a point in the ceiling can help. If you lose your balance, lower your arms and leg gently, pause, regain your composure, and redo. It helps to do this pose next to a wall so you can catch yourself and regain your balance if you start wobbling.
Sometimes you may suffer setbacks. No problem. This pose requires special balance and coordination – no wonder it’s been one of the more difficult ones for me to master. Some days I can keep my balance perfectly. Other days I am wobbling back and forth like an inexperienced trapeze artist on a tightrope!
Enjoy the stretch and have fun with it, regardless of how long you can keep your balance. Doing this pose makes you more conscious of your posture and encourages you hold your head high! You’ll feel more energized and confident!
Yours for keeping your balance with the yoga arm and leg stretch,
Laura Venecia Rodriguez, the self-taught yoga coach for beginners