Arm balances are a fun part of yoga that build strength, focus and mental awareness. But finding your balance can be challenging on a stand up paddle board. Here are some tips that can help you with arm balances and inversions on the board:
1. Wrist flexibility. Paddling requires strong wrists and forearms. Conversely if there is too much muscle tension in your forearms it can pull you out of the arm balance. So flexibility is key to bringing your weight forward and over the hands. Warm up your wrists before practice, then stretch the front and back of the wrists. One of my favorite warm ups while you are on hands and knees is making circles with your wrists. Turn the hands in different directions to move through multiple planes.
2. Find the center of the board. Finding the center of the board and orienting your body to that point is important for mastering arm balances since the surface moves as you do. Once you have found that center keep your hands active. We tend to put the weight into the heal of the hand, keep the weight actively between the fingers, knuckles, and palms.
3. Find your core! When I first started practicing arm balances I was convinced that if I build my upper body I was going to fly with ease. It turns out that a strong core is the foundation of advanced poses. Practice activating these muscles by drawing your belly button in and up while simultaneously drawing the lower pelvic floor up. This activates your Mula and Uddiyana Bandha both powerful abdominal locks that will aid in getting you body off the board.
4. Breathe! When you are held under the water it is exhilarating but scary. Some of that fear is from holding your breath. When you breathe you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest part of the autonomic nervous system. Breathing will help you to steady your body and decrease fear from flying.
5. Let that shit go. Falling and failing is a part of learning how to balance. I admit from personal experience that it is easy to become attached to the outcome of the pose. So don’t hold on to any of it; fly, fall, swim, repeat. Yoga is about inner growth and overcoming fears but it is also about having non-attachment to the fruits of our labor. So have fun and be free with your arm balances!
Using these simple tips can help make your arm balances easier and fun. Remember to practice safely and I hope to see you on the water!
Peace, Love and Happiness