Challenge Pose: Eka Pada Koundinyasana II


Kathryn Budig says the key to this pose is learning to think a bit differently about flight.

This is one of the first “fancy” arm balances I learned to do back when I was chomping at the bit for new challenging poses. My teacher at the time used to teach Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II) so gracefully that I knew it had to be part of my practice. For what felt like a small eternity, I could get my leg onto my arm, painstakingly straighten it, then the hop dance would begin–I’d bounce my back leg like Tigger riding a prayer in hope that it would someday stay elevated in the air.

This is when I was only thinking in terms of up and down. Remember as you practice this pose that, yes, the back leg will go up, but the heart offers itself forward to give the back leg leverage in contrast. The back leg once lifted doesn’t stay put on it’s own–it’s your commitment and energy that turns it into a wing as opposed to that dead fish it normally feels like. So expand your perspective–there is no such thing as just up and down–there is always an extension. Nothing just hangs out–it radiates. And frustration won’t get you further, but laughter mixed with commitment will take you wherever you need to go.

This is when I was only thinking in terms of up and down. Remember as you practice this pose that, yes, the back leg will go up, but the heart offers itself forward to give the back leg leverage in contrast. The back leg once lifted doesn’t stay put on it’s own–it’s your commitment and energy that turns it into a wing as opposed to that dead fish it normally feels like. So expand your perspective–there is no such thing as just up and down–there is always an extension. Nothing just hangs out–it radiates. And frustration won’t get you further, but laughter mixed with commitment will take you wherever you need to go.

Step 1
Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Lift the right leg up into the air and externally rotate it open from the hip socket–the toes spin out, heel in. Flex the foot. This action will make the left hip want to jut out, so make an extra effort to firm the outer left him in to stabilize the pelvis. Keep the right leg straight and rotated as you start to cut the leg through the air parallel to the ground. For now, keep the shoulders in Down Dog, simply focusing on the hip movement. Return the leg to its starting position and repeat this action 5 times, inhaling as you rotate, exhaling as you extend the leg.

Step 2
If you need a break after the five rounds from Step 1, take one. Otherwise, march on! From the extension, bend your right knee and shift your shoulders directly over the heels of the hands. Keep the arms straight and the upper back rounding. Lightly place the bent knee above the right elbow and hold for one to five breaths. Be aware to keep the pelvis open. It’s easy to place just the front of the kneecap on the arm, neutralizing the hips. Since you want to keep the hips open, take the inner part of the knee to the right arm. (It will make sense by the time you get to Step 4.)

Step 3
From Step 2, keep the inner knee on the arm above the elbow and bend the elbows into a full Chaturanga–elbows above wrists, forearms hug in, shoulder heads lifted, and gaze slightly forward. Keep the ball of the back foot on the ground and stay calm. Take five strong breaths and step back to Child’s Pose. OR if you’re still feeling OK …

Step 4
Keep the gaze extending, dig the fingertips into the ground and begin to isometrically pull through the hands. As the heart extends forward, the rear leg will begin to lighten and lift. Extend the front leg straight (this will require a ton of hip flexor and hamstring engagement–don’t say I didn’t warn you) and straighten the back leg with huge enthusiasm. Spread both sets of toes to keep the line of energy active. Be careful to not let left shoulder drop–keep the shoulder heads even and the gaze straight forward. Hold for a few breaths and step back or swing the front leg back to meet the left. Take a vinyasa and repeat the entire sequence on the left side.

Beat the Heat with these two cooling breathing techniques

How To Practice Sitali

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the head, neck, and spine in alignment.
  • Close your eyes, breathe diaphragmatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”
  • Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch).
  • Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
  • Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
  • Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.

Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and repeat the cooling breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Gradually you can work your way up to a 10-minute practice.

​Can’t Curl Your Tongue? Try Sitkari

How to Practice Sitkari

  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
  • Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.
  • Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
  • Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.

Repeat up to 20 times. This practice is called sitkari. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in addition to its cooling effects, sitkari balances the endocrine system and builds vitality.

Cautions for Sitali and Sitkari
Because sitali and sitkari reduce body temperature, they are best practiced during hot weather or after a vigorous asana or heating pranayama practice (like bhastrika).
If you have a vata or kapha constitution, sitali and sitkari may not be appropriate during wintertime. But no matter when you practice, be sure to take in air that is close to body temperature, since the breath won’t be warmed by the nostrils—if the air is cold, it may aggravate the lungs.

website with complete article: ​

Forearm Balance by Jason Crandell

Yoga in your Cubicle: 

Here are some exercises to do when you need some movement at your desk. 

Pose Notebook: Avoid the Banana in Forearm Balance

[Forearm Balance]
{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

There are 3 ways to use this blog:
1. You can simply practice Foream Balance using the illustration.
2. You can learn how to get into the posture by reading the “How To” Section below.
3. Or you can geek out on the sequencing and anatomy related to the pose, by skipping down to Part II of this column.

Don’t forget to pass this along to your students and colleagues!

If you want to learn more, join me live at my 500-hr Certification Program or join me for my Sequencing and Anatomy E-Courses.

Forearm Balance’s similarities to Handstand are striking, In fact, the two postures are identical from the feet all the way through the elbows. The point of differentiation between the postures is that you bend your elbows and place them on the floor in forearm balance and you keep them straight in Handstand. This is obvious to even the most casual observer. What is not obvious is the chain reaction that bending the elbows creates in the shoulders, core, spine, pelvis, and legs. Let’s look at this chain reaction and learn how to work with it.

One quick tip about Forearm Balance (Pincha Mayurasana)

When you bend your elbows in and place them on the floor, it becomes much harder to flex your shoulder joints. This means that most students feel tighter and more restricted in their shoulders in Forearm Balance compared to Handstand. Yes, Forearm Balance has certain advantages that Handstand doesn’t. However, for many students it can be very challenging to get the upper-arms, shoulders, and ribs verticaly stacked in Forearm Balance. When the shoulders don’t flex easily, the core and spine compensate by moving too far into extension. Here’s another way of saying the same thing: when the shoulders don’t flex enough, the spine and core compensate by moving too far into a backbend – so your body is in a banana shape.

So, instead of just focusing on strengthening your core, my tip for this pose is to focus on creating more shoulder flexion by doing three things:
1. Stretch your triceps and lats

2. Stretching your rhomboids and traps

3. Stretching your pecs and anterior deltoids

This sounds like a lot, but it’s not rocket science. The warm-up below lists the postures that work best.

It’s a good idea to warm up your entire body with a few Sun Salutations before you focus on preparing your shoulders. Any kind of salutation will do the trick. Once you’ve done a few rounds, sit on the floor in Sukhasana or Vajrasana. Do the following four shoulder openers:
1) Half-Down Dog (hands on a wall or on a chair), Dolphin Pose, and Gomukhasana to stretch your triceps and lats
2) Cat Pose and Garudasana to stretch your rhomboids and traps
3) Fingers interlaced and arms straight behind your back to stretch your chest and the front of your shoulders.

Handstand is also great all around preparation if it’s part of your repertoire.

As with other inversions, it’s helpful to learn this pose at the wall and with the help of a skilled teacher. If you’re more experienced and able to work on balancing in the posture, you’re welcome to follow the same instructions while in the milddle of the room.

1. Set up facing a wall.

2. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows shoulder-width apart. Your forearms should be parallel to each other and your palms should face down. Adjust your distance from the wall so that the wall is just barely beyond the reach of your fingertips.

3. There are many different ways to use a block in this pose and I’m an advocate for all of them! For the purpose of this blog, I’m simply going to suggest that you place a block between your hands.

More specifically, look at your fingers and place the block so that your index fingers touch the sides of the block and your thumbs touch the bottom of the block.

4. Bring your shoulders forward so that they’re direclty above your elbows. Step one foot half way to your elbow and bend your knee. Choose whichever leg feels the most natural.

5. Root down through the base of each finger and thumb.

6. Look at the floor in between your hands. Take a slow, deep breath. Don’t freak out.

7. As you exhale, bend the knee that you brought forward more deeply and strongly push the floor away. As this leg jumps, simultaneously swing the back leg toward the wall. Keep the knee of your “swinging” leg straight.

8. As one leg swings toward the wall and the other leg jumps, draw your navel toward your spine to recruit your core muscles and create greater lift.

9. You need to use enough strength and momentum to get your hips over your shoulders. Once your hips are above your shoulders, your “swinging” leg will make it to the wall and stay there. At this point, you can bring your second leg (your “jumping” leg to the wall).

10. Now that you’re in the pose, you can refine it by using the infographic above!

11. Hold the pose for a few seconds before slowly lowering one of your feet toward the floor. As you lower one leg, the second will follow shortly thereafter.

12. Spend a few moments in Child’s Pose or Standing Forward Bend.

Forearm Balance is not an easy posture. If you struggle with it, you’re in good company. Don’t beat yourself up. Respect yourself and remember that this is a practice. The following tips will help you make progress:

1. Focus on building shoulder strength and confidence by doing Half Dolphin Pose and Half-Handstand. You do this by standing about a legs’ distance away from the wall, placing your arms into position and walking your feet up the wall to hip height. (The first time you do it, recruit the help of a friend or a teacher.)

2. Focus on building core strength by practicing Forearm Plank, Navasana, and Ardha Navasana.

3. It’s easy to forget that it takes practice to coordinate the action of your legs and core as you jump into Handstand. So, one option is to simply focus on the action of juming into Handstand without actually getting all the way there. Repeat the process of swinging and jumping several times to build your understanding and coordination of this process.



Your Legs
All the leg muscles are active in Forearm Balance. That said, the most notable exertion comes from the muscles that line your inner-legs, the adductors. Engaging these muscles not only engages the legs, it recruits your core, which creates better control in the pose. Your quadriceps are working to keep your knees straight. You’re also engaging your hamstrings to help your hips stay extended.

Your Core
Your core’s primary job in Forearm Balance is to keep your pelvis, ribs, and lower spine aligned and prevent hyperextension in your lower back. Remember, this is more difficult if your core and spine are forced to compensate for limited shoulder mobility. In particular, you’re engaging your iliopsoas to help your legs stay vertically aligned and firing your transversus abdominus and obliques help keep your lower back from hyperextending.

Your Spinal Muscles
Your erector spinae are working to help maintain the vertical position of your spine and balance the muscular forces of your core.

Your Shoulders and Arms
While your legs, core, and spine work to maintain the position of your entire body, your shoulders and arms have the greatest amount of work in Forearm Balance. The four muscles of your rotator cuff are externally rotating and stabilizing your upper arm. Your deltoids and pecs are helping to flex your shoulders and keep your elbows from splaying. Your biceps and triceps are working to hold the position of your arms and support the weight of your body.

Your Latissimus Dorsi
The lats are getting the most significant stretch of the entire body in this posture. If the lats are tight it’s much more likely that your elbows will splay. Some students may also feel a stretch in their rhomboids and middle fibers of their trapezius.