ADHO MKHA VRKSASANA (arm balance) and variations Level 2 & 3
It's the opposite of Vrksasana (Tree Pose), both in orientation, and in how the elements play out.
In Vrksasana you are rooted through your feet, in Adho Mukha Vrksasana the stability has to come through your hands and arms.
In Adho Mukha Vrksasana, the element of water gets energised (pranasised) in the legs through jumping. In other words, a sense of fluidity is experienced in the legs when you jump.
Method: how to come into the pose
Come onto your hands and knees by a wall, positioning your hands close to the wall, start with the fingers pointing outwards and 5-6 cm away from it.
Spread your fingers and raise your knees up off the floor to come onto your toes.
Raise your front groins through the lift of your sitting bones.
Transfer more weight onto your hands, lift your shoulders and draw them and your upper back away from the wall. Kick up one leg at a time with straight legs to swing your pelvis toward the wall.
Progression in hand placement
Progress to pointing the fingers to the wall, hands as in adho mukha svanasana.
Tips on hopping up
Hopping up: Sometimes the fear factor can prevent newcomers to this pose from getting up. Before you jump, you need to know that you can raise each leg high enough to give you the momentum you need to swing up. Stretch each leg up separately — beyond parallel. In other words, raise each leg up, one at a time, above hip level — and then you know you have a chance. To overcome fear, look at the floor as you prepare to hop up. Now come up, one leg at a time: stretch your right leg up, bend the left leg and spring up. Know that you must get the pelvis close to the wall, but not quite touching.
Actions to work on once in the pose
Distribute your weight evenly on both hands, press down firmly through the index and thumb side of the palm.
Straighten your arms and maintain them parallel to each other and the wall.
Still looking at the floor, lift your trapezius muscles up, away from your neck.
Roll your inner thighs toward the wall and lift.
Slide your heels up the wall to draw the buttock flesh toward the heels and lengthen the lower back.
Broaden the calves before lifting them.
Extend the inner heels.
Still lifting your trapezius muscles away from the neck, release your head, so that the crown faces the floor.
Progression for Level 2
Once you can get up regularly and easily — and swinging up with the left leg as well as the right — spring with both legs at the same time. Once you have mastered that take both legs up together and straight!
Progression for Level 3
Adho Mukha Vrksasana also has options with hands turned in and even back! It's best that you get the guidance of a qualified Iyengar teacher for these variations.
Cautions: Do not practice during menstruation. Do not practice this or any other sequence that involves jumping if you have back or knee injuries or any other medical problems.
With gratitude to BKS Iyengar and Geetaji for inspirational teaching.