Arm balances asanas are a quick test of upper body strength and core work. The Firefly pose known as the Tittibhasana, is one of my favourite arm balances. Not only that a great deal of arm, shoulders, core strength are needed, Tittibhasana also requires hip and hamstring flexibility.
1. Strengthen the shoulders, arms and wrists
2. Tones the belly
3. Improves postural reflex (sense of balance)
Like any arm balances, warm up the upper body (arms, chest and shoulders) with Santolosana (high plank) and Chaturanga (Push up position) variations. Wake the core up by doing leg lifts, knee-to-chest exercises and crunches of course. These warm up prepares the body to get the body to fully engage the shoulders to protract and get the core fully sucked inwards to lift the lower body and legs higher up the arms.
Now do not forget to those work hip flexors and hamstrings out in order to grip those firefly legs on your firefly arms! If you have began your practice with Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), you would have already activated the hip flexors and hamstrings! Add a number of high and low lunges into the flow to open up the hips more. Do not be shy on the warrior poses and extended side angle poses to allow maximal external hip rotation and sink those hips LOWER!
Attempt the deep Uttanasana variation after these warm ups.
1. Come to Uttanasana position, get the feet slightly more the hip width apart.
2. Bend your knees and slide both arms in between the thighs and allow the thighs to come as high as possible towards the shoulders.
3. Stay in the pose and breathe if this feels tight for you already. Otherwise, move your shoulders higher up the thighs and interlock your fingers behind your back!
Getting into Tittibhasana!
1. Come to Malasana position.
2. Lift the hips and slide your arms in between your thighs. Think of getting the shoulders as high up as possible at the back of thighs.
3. Place both of your entire palms just behind your ankle, about shoulder width apart. At this stage, many of us do not place our entire palms down! This is not safe for your wrists and fingers! Bend your knees more if it is what it takes to bring your palms down.
4. Gaze at a point slightly further away from your feet and bend your elbows to chaturanga arms. Your hip will want to lower towards the ground. Keep those hips lifted by pushing the shoulder blades up towards the sky, pushing the ground away with your strong arms. Suck your belly in, use the core to support your body. Do not dump the entire weight on your arms! Stay for a few breaths.
5. Lift one foot on the mat and stay for a few breaths. When you find the balance, lift the second foot. Keep the shoulders and core engaged.
6. Straighten the legs out! If you have been dumping your weight on your arms, you will find it difficult to straighten those legs even if you are very flexible at the hips and hamstrings. Think of leaving a 2mm gap (suck in the core more and round more on the back) between your thighs and your arms to allow the hamstrings to contract and straighten!
The process of getting into a Tittibhasana can be frustrating at times, especially when you lose it and land clumsily on the butt, in a weird leg-hooking-over-arm position! Fret not! Reassure that this pose does not happen over night! It requires a lot of muscle memory and awareness! Always remember to breathe in your pose, it keeps you composed and sends oxygen to your brain, telling your muscle to do the work!
Always remember that yoga is not about perfection or getting to the peak of a pose. It is the process of understanding our body better and working towards creating a healthier body and mind! Irregardless of where you are in this pose, stay contented and allow your inner light to shine bright like a firefly!
March 2015 (weekday batch)