Tittibhasana (Firefly pose)
This challenging arm balance requires a deep forward bend at the hips, arm strength to support the pose, activation of the legs to facilitate the lift, and lightness to the lower body in order to “take flight”. The ultimate aim is to balance opposing forces where we support ourselves on our hands while lifting the legs like wings, and yet soften into a forward bend off the ground.
Practice and all is coming 😉
Muscle groups activated
– Lower body: Groin, hamstrings
– Upper body: Pectoralis, wrist flexors, erector spinae, abdominals
– Strengthens arms, wrist and core
– Improves balance
– Stretches the back and hamstrings
– Reminder that workable balance can be achieved in any situation 🙂
– Shoulder injury
– Wrist and elbow injuries
– Lower back injury
Preparatory sequence for Tittibahasana (Firefly pose)
1. Warm up with several rounds of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), and open hips/stretch spine in Parshvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose), Virabhadrasana I/II (Warrior Pose I/II), and Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose).
2. Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Wide-Angle pose)
– Benefits: Tones adductor muscles and engages a ‘drawing-in’ action which is essential for Tittibhasana.
– Sitting on the floor, separate the feet as wide as possible. Grab hold of the big toes or outside edges of thefeet.
– Squeeze leg muscles strongly to lift kneecaps up. Pressing heels into the floor, engage thigh muscles and draw legs towards one another.
– Press the tailbone down and make sure the kneecaps face the ceiling and the back is nto rounded.
– Look up and hold for 5 – 10 breaths.
3. Parshva Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Wide-Angle Pose to the Side)
– Benefits: Lengthens the hamstrings and inner thighs.
– Following on from Upavishtha Konasana, lift arms overhead, stretching through sides of the waist, and turn to face one leg.
– Exhaling, extend the chest over one leg and grab the foot with the hands, folding the chest over the leg.
– Ensure the sitting bones are anchored, the kneecaps are facing the ceiling, and the toes are pointing straight up.
– Hold for 5 – 10 breaths.
– Repeat on the other side.
4. Paschimottanasana variation (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
– Benefits: this pose mimics the shape of Tittibhasana and helps engage the adductors to access the strength required to open the hips.
– Sit on the floor with legs separated slightly wider than hips.
– Grab the outside edges of feet, tilt hips forward and elongate chest towards feet to stretch the spine.
– Hold for 5 – 10 breaths.
5. Ardha Ananda Balasana (Half Happy Baby Pose)
– Benefits: This pose opens the hips and engages the adductor muscles, essential for keeping the legs in place in Tittibhasana.
– Lie on the back and place left foot on the floor, with the knee facing the ceiling.
– Grab the right foot with both hands, pressing the foot into the hands and actively resisting the action by pulling hands against thefoot.
– Encourage opposite hip to remain on the floor so that the pelvis stays level and hips get a deeper stretch.
– Hold for 5 – 10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
6. Eka Hasta Bhujasana (Elephant’s Trunk Pose)
– Benefits: Introductory arm balance which strengthens the core, arms and adductors, all of which are essential to the concept of “internal lift” that makes arm balances possible.
= From Dandasana, with the left leg stretched out in front of you, flex the right knee towards the side of the chest, holding on to the right foot.
– Place the right leg behind the body on top of the upper right arm, as high up on the shoulder as possible. Clamp the leg in place on the upper arm by bringing the right heel toward the right sitting bone.
– Squeeze the inner thigh muscles to squeeze the right knee against the right shoulder and vice versa.
– Place hands on floor out in front, push into the floor, engage core, and lift whole body off the floor.
– Hold for 3 – 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
7. Bhujapidasana (Shoulder-Pressing Pose)
– In a standing position, tilt the pelvis forward into Uttanasana, and lift right heel off the floor, using the right hand to push the right calf and shin forward to place the right shoulder behind the right leg.
– Lift the left heel, nudge the lower left leg forward, and place left shoulder under the left leg.
– Bring feet closer together, if you walked your feet out.
– Squeeze the knees towards the chest, bend knees enough to place hands on floor behind your feet. Keep squeezing the knees as your push your hands into the floor to support your weight with your arms.
– Cross feet at the ankles, squeezing against the arms, then lift the hips and feet off the ground. Engage the inner thighs and core strongly.
– Hold for 5-10 breaths.
8. Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)
– Set up the pose as for Bhujapidasana.
– Squat with the feet a little less than shoulder distance apart.Tilt pelvis forward and bring chest between the legs. Keeping the chest low, straighten the legs enough to lift the pelvis to about knee height.
– One after another, bring the upper arm and shoulder as far as possible underneath the backs of the thighs just above the knee, and place both hands on the floor at the outside edge of the foot, fingers pointing forwards.
– Lift body off the floor by shifting the centre of gravity, pressing hands into the floor and keeping inner thighs as high on the arms as possible.
– Using an inhalation, stretch the legs out to the sides as straight as possible, keeping the pelvis high to make the legs parallel to the floor. Hug the inner thighs around the arms, and at the same time press the arms against the inner thighs.
– Press through the bases of the big toes, but pull the toes back towards the chest and spread them apart.
– Straighten the arms as much as possible, rounding the back to get a sense of lightness and lift the chest high. Rounding of the back will help to activate the core and keep the legs parallel to the floor.
– Without tensing the neck, lift the head and gaze forward.
– Hold for 5 – 10 breaths, then release feet to the floor with an exhale.
– Lower into a wide squat with feet wider than hip width, turning the toes out and heels in.
– Bring elbows inside the knees, with hands in prayer position at the chest. Press the knees against the knees.
– Bring the hands down on the floor in front of the feet, leaning forward into the hands and lifting the hips up while still maintaining the shape of the deep squat.
– Bring hands back behind the heels, framing the heels with the index finger and the thumb. Pushing down into the heels of the hand till the palms are flat, elbows tucking behind the knees. Ensure the spine is flat.
– Lower back into the deep squat, squeezing arms against backs of the calves and checking that the knees are as high up on the upper arm as possible.
– Lean into hands until toes lift up. Push into hands and energise legs to straighten and point the toes. The elbows can be softened to lift the hips. Straighten arms using core strength as well as by engaging the legs.
Follow-up counter poses
9. Pada Hastasana (Hand under Foot Pose Forward Bend Pose)
10. Urdvha Muka Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog)
11. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
12. Sarvanganasana (Shoulder Stand)
Joanna Khoo, 200hr Jan-May 2014 weekend batch
Yoga Journal (http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2470)