How I Learned to do Forearm Stand
How I Learned to do Forearm Stand is my journey towards practicing this yoga inversion. With a combination of core strength and balance, you can work your way up into Pincha Mayurasana, too!
My first yoga class was about ten years ago, and the contrast between then and now is crazy-huge. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy it at first. I thought it was boring, and the spa music just wasn’t doing it for me. Flash forward a year to when I learned why a yoga practice can be beneficial – to my limited knowledge at that point, it was “better breathing and flexibility”. My experience with yoga expanded a wee bit more when I taught a YogaFit style class in undergrad; I enjoyed teaching, I loved practicing, but the connection between yoga and…LIFE didn’t really click yet. Or at all.
It wasn’t until I moved to Charlottesville, met Eliza, cried in Savasana (a good cry), and signed up for Yoga Teacher Training that I truly began to understand how practicing yoga can help me develop and grow as a person. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.
After teaching here in Charlottesville for two years, I won’t pretend to know everything there is about yoga, or power vinyasa. I hardly remember the Sanskrit for each yoga pose, and I don’t practice as much as I’d like. But working on the following things has seriously improved how I teach, why I teach, and how I feel/think/act in real life:
- Connecting breath with movement
- Slowing down (mentally) to try and be more present – still not an easy one
- Core strength and stability as a foundation for other things – AKA this inversion, y’all
- Not trying so hard to BE somewhere, since I’m already there – mind. blown.
Benefits of Forearm Stand (and other inversions)
Why do people practice Forearm Stand, and is it crucial for a “good” yoga practice? I’ll answer the second question first. Even though famous Instagram yogis make it seem like you should be able to contort your body and do all sorts of crazy arm balances and inversions, IT’S OKAY if you a) aren’t able to do an inversion, and b) don’t really feel like it yet. Or ever.
My intention with this post is NOT to tell you that you need to be incorporating Forearm Stand into your practice, and you certainly shouldn’t try this until you’ve had a chat with your doctor, physical therapist, or fitness professional. I’m sharing my experience with you, and tackling the mechanics behind practicing this pose, because there are certain muscles that need to be strong enough to hold you in Forearm Stand.
Alright, how about the benefits of inversions? Besides looking kinda cool, inversions can be great for:
- Building core strength
- Practicing focus and balance
- Giving us a new perspective
- Potentially helping circulation and the lymphatic system
How I Learned to Do Forearm Stand
Forearm Stand for me is still a work in progress. I rely heavily on a wall, mostly because I’m afraid to try it without one! After consulting with your medical and health professional, see if any of these tips can help you practice (building up to) Forearm Stand:
It’s all about the foundation
Before even getting into your inversion, making sure that the core and foundation are strong and stable is essential. Otherwise, injury is more likely around the corner. Think of it like building a high-rise. If the foundation is questionable, we know the building is less likely to stay up.
Check your forearm plank and ask yourself the following:
- Are my fingers spread out wide, and is each finger pressing down as firmly into the ground as possible? Using muscles in the hands, fingers, and forearms helps provide the foundation to contract muscles in the chest and shoulders.
- Am I sinking into my shoulder blades, or am I able to press my chest up and away from the mat? This is arguably one of the most important steps to mastering an inversion. If the shoulder girdle muscles are weak and unable to support you in a plank, you’ll sure-as-heck have a hard time in an inversion!
- Do I feel my abs working? This sounds like an obvious one, but when it comes time to get your legs up into Forearm Stand, you MUST feel your abs working, or the spine risks taking most of the load.
Correct plank ^^
Plank that is lacking in strength and foundation ^^
Figure out your base
How far apart should your elbows be in Forearm Stand? The following technique works for me, and you can try it out as well. Based on your anatomy, however, it might feel better to go wider than what I’m showing below.
With your elbows on the ground, grab each elbow with the opposite hand (e.g. I Dream of Jeannie motion). This is general rule-of-thumb for how far apart the elbows should be. Then, rest your forearms down at an angle, so that the hands can come towards each other in the middle – almost like you could make a triangle with your pointer fingers and thumbs.
Practice Dolphin Pose
Working on this next step is important for practicing using your core muscles, improving flexibility in the hips and hamstrings, and getting used to the feeling of having your hips up above your shoulders. With your I-Dream-of-Jeannie arms and strong shoulder girdle muscles (upper back, shoulders, chest), start to walk your feet towards your chest, raising the hips higher and higher as you go.
Practicing Forearm Stand isn’t necessarily a one-day thing. You may find that working on the above steps for days/weeks will feel better than trying to go upside down right away! When you’re ready for the inversion, don’t forget to think about your foundation.
There are different ways to get up into Forearm Stand, and today I’m walking you through how to kick up into it: while you’re on the forearms (I-Dream-of-Jeannie arms, check!), begin to walk your feet in, as close as you can towards the chest – it’ll only make it easier. With the hips high, as close to being above the shoulders as possible, reach one leg up in the air. Squeeze your glute to get maximum height. Bend the bottom leg, and lightly push your bottom foot off the ground to get a sense of what it feels like to balance on the forearms. Maybe THAT’S where you hang out for a few days, just bouncing up and down while in Dolphin.
When you’re ready to get both legs up, see if practicing in front of a wall will help you get a feel for where your hips should be (i.e. directly above the shoulders). Your legs should almost feel weightless up there, because you’ll be in a relatively straight line from toes to elbows.
To balance, do this
Being “still” in Forearm Stand is hardly effortless for me. It is CONSTANT adjustment and reminding myself to engage the muscles. When you get to this point, keep reminding yourself to:
- Reaaaaaaaally press your elbows, forearms, and finger pads down into the mat so that the muscles work to stabilize rather than just the joints
- Press yourself UP and AWAY from the ground, rather than sinking down towards it
- PULL your abs in nice and tight, to keep the foundation strong
- SQUEEZE your inner thighs together to keep the legs still and stable
- REACH your feet UP towards the ceiling, to facilitate more of lifting “up and away” from the ground
Yoga inversions are fun to practice, and there is definitely a sense of “getting over your fear” – of trying something new, of getting out of your comfort zone, of being upside down, of not being near a wall (not me, yet!). If you decide to work on Forearm Stand, make sure your core muscles are strengthened and your foundation is stable.
Pin for later!