Pose of the Month: Pincha Mayurasana: Feathered Peacock Pose (Forearm balance)
By Chrisandra Fox Walker
The month of March is a natural dawn for sloughing off the dark and heavy of winter and embracing the light and radiant color of early Spring. With growing warmth and light-filled days, we tend to feel active and playful, especially after a long winter’s slumber. This month’s pose will help revitalize you physically, emotionally and mentally and awaken you to a lighter, clearer and more vital sense of well-being. Pincha Mayurasana (feathered peacock pose), “forearm stand” or “elbow balance”, belongs to the group of mighty inverted arm balances that build strength, stability, balance and help lighten the load by reversing the flow of gravity in the body. When we feel strong and centered inside, we tend to express ourselves more freely and playfully on the outside – like a peacock, just before lifting and spreading its beautiful feathered tail.
When practiced regularly, the forearm balance strengthens and opens the muscles of the arms, shoulders, neck, spine and core of the body, including the abdominals and legs. It requires focus and concentration to balance, so forearm stand will increase mental prowess, as well, and can help relieve stress, sharpen cognitive function and relax a weary and fatigued mind.
Inversions – when we turn the body upside down – increase blood supply to the brain and all the vital organs. The longer a pose can be held, the more far-reaching its benefits, so headstand and shoulderstand are considered to have a greater influence on the internal systems of the body than do the arm balancing inversions like handstand and forearm balance. Still, going upside down will turn your world upside down, and the tissues of the body and brain and even your psyche will benefit. Further, the exuberating sensation of grounding your heart energy through your arms, lifting off the earth and floating into balance provides an overall uplift and lightness to your entire being.
Note: Practice under the guidance of your teacher and avoid this pose if you have injuries to the shoulder, neck or spine, high blood pressure, or are menstruating.
Otherwise, celebrate an awakening of the energy and vitality in your body this Spring and express your true colors from a strong and steady center.
Warm up for Pincha Mayurasana with poses that open the hips and shoulders and strengthen and stretch your core.
Come to your hands and knees facing a wall. Take hold of either elbow with either hand to mark the distance of your shoulders. Place your forearms on the floor, shoulder-width apart and parallel to one another. Position your fingers just a few inches away from the wall.
Spread your fingers widely. Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the ground. Press into the base of your thumbs and index fingers, root through the inner part of your forearms. Now, set your dristhi, or gaze. You can imagine drawing an equal-sided triangle on the floor, where the base runs between the two thumbs and the other two sides of the triangle meet at a point just beyond the hands. Direct your gaze to this point.
Draw your shoulder blades securely onto your back ribs and toward your tailbone, and rotate your upper arms out. From here, you’ll bend one knee and kick the opposite leg toward the sky. Inhale as you kick up and feel your abdominals lengthen to help lift that leg up, up and away. Let the standing leg follow. Place both heels on the wall, push up through the soles of your feet and spread your toes. This action of dorsiflexion will help to engage your legs as though you are standing on the ceiling. Hug both thighs in like you are squeezing a ball between them. Draw your tailbone toward your heels and your navel in toward your spine to help engage through your core. Allow your neck to lengthen and release the crown of your head toward the floor – you can even draw your chin toward your throat center to help deepen your core stability.
Now comes the art of balancing. Grip your forearms, palms and finger pads against the floor, root through your forearms and lift your triceps. It’s important to keep the shoulder blades firm on the back ribs, not letting them slide toward your neck. Continue to roll your inner thighs toward the wall and reach the ball mounds of your toes a little higher than your heels into plantar flexion.
Gradually, lift your head and stretch across the front of your neck, re-set your gaze at the peak of your imaginary triangle. Try taking one or both legs off the wall.
For added support, you can place a block between your hands with palms facing down, or hold the block between both palms and rest and root through the outer forearm edge.
Once you are more confident with the balance, get outside and practice lifting your feathered tail in the outdoors – against a wall, a tree, or free-standing in a grove with other fine-feathered friends.
Chrisandra Fox Walker teaches a few of the 84,000’s of poses in 6 weekly classes at Yoga Tree. Click here for her schedule. She is a core teacher in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training Program and leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats in California and beyond. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com