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yogafire

How Do You Strengthen For Forearm Stand If You Need To Avoid Supported Headstand?

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Happy new year! With the new 31 day strength challenge, I naturally thought about working on my forearm stand.  (Note: I'll be participating informally, a challenge right now would feel stressful to me instead of being a motivator).

 

Candace gave great advice about the natural progression being from supported headstand -> forearm stand -> handstand.  My dilemma is that I reached supported headstand, freestanding without the wall and without kicking up, but I can no longer practice this due to a chronic (has been a year now) neck injury that may flare up with neck pressure. So, how do I get into forearm stand without being able to practice the strengthening exercises in supported headstand?

 

Currently, I have to hop into forearm stand and handstand, and one hypothesis my teacher mentioned was that those poses rely more on the serratus anterior muscles (right below the armpits), whereas headstand hides the usage of those muscles.

 

Any tips to strengthen those hard-to-isolate serratus anterior and other core muscles?  My teacher mentioned dolphin pose, but I was wondering if anyone has other suggestions.

YogaByCandace likes this

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Hey there! So the flare up only comes from pressure, right? I ask because sometimes people arch their neck a little in forearm stand so I just want to make sure that won't hurt you...or just give you the heads up to be aware of that and avoid doing that if it might irritate the neck. 

 

Anyway! Back to your question. How about side plank on the forearms? That'll also help work the core which'll be nice for forearm stand as well. I also like the idea of going from dolphin to plank on the forearms to dolphin to plank on the forearms. That'll help build up that upper body strength and you can always play around with walking the feet really close to the forearms until you feel your pelvis come in line with your shoulders. That'll help when you're ready to "float" up. Enjoy the project and feel free to ask more questions as they arise. I'm hoping some other people may chime in with some options they think  of as well.  :)

yogafire likes this

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Hi Candace, thanks so much for the fast advice! Transitioning between plank and dolphin is a great idea! But... how, exactly? Do I jump back with my feet into forearm plank from dolphin, and then move onto my side?  Or start in forearm plank on my side, roll back to center, and then "hop" forward into dolphin?

 

And as for my neck, it's a culmination from overstretching (I sleep on my side, but now I do it with a neck pillow for support) or bad posture while working.  So, I'll make sure not to arch my neck while doing forearm stand - overall I've had to adjust the recommended drishtis sometimes so I don't strain my neck.  Thank you so much for that warning!

 

While in forearm stand, is it still possible to balance if I let my neck hang downward?  I was hoping to still play with inversions since I had supported headstand taken away from me! 

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Hi Candace, thanks so much for the fast advice! Transitioning between plank and dolphin is a great idea! But... how, exactly? Do I jump back with my feet into forearm plank from dolphin, and then move onto my side?  Or start in forearm plank on my side, roll back to center, and then "hop" forward into dolphin?

 

And as for my neck, it's a culmination from overstretching (I sleep on my side, but now I do it with a neck pillow for support) or bad posture while working.  So, I'll make sure not to arch my neck while doing forearm stand - overall I've had to adjust the recommended drishtis sometimes so I don't strain my neck.  Thank you so much for that warning!

 

While in forearm stand, is it still possible to balance if I let my neck hang downward?  I was hoping to still play with inversions since I had supported headstand taken away from me! 

Hey! So for plank to dolphin and back again, I'd just walk the feet up and back, keeping the arms exactly as they are on the mat. 

 

It's definitely possible to balance if you let your neck hang and take your gaze behind you. It might be a bit more challenging, but it's a variation I see often (yet haven't tried myself, if I'm being honest!)  :)  Best of luck!! 

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The way I know Dolphin (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) to plank is simply starting in downward dog, lowering to the forearms, (which is also the base for a forearm balance). Then an inhale to shift the head and shoulders forward and an exhale to raise the hips back up. Never move the position of the forearms or feet. Other ways may work as well.

 

Lolasana is an excellent pose for building up strength for all arm balances. Even just lifting the knees gives huge benefit. Some effort must be put into lifting the feet, even if they don't lift off the ground, in order to get all the muscles working properly.

 

A little caution: I have no way to know where others are at in their practice so I may be giving information that others already know. Pincha Mayurasana (the first forearm balance) is found In the intermediate Ashtanga series. Working through the first 2 Ashtanga series, beginner (also called primary) and intermediate, there is about 100 poses that a person learns before Pincha Mayurasana. Not all 100 poses are required before this. But some that don't seem to make sense at first are required. Things like the foot behind the head poses and Kapotasana, a demanding backbend, are required. I am not able to explain all the reasons why these are required poses but one of the reasons is long-term shoulder injures. The others, not necessarily injuries, are things that can damage other parts of the practice.

 

If anyone still wants to give it go the first step is 1 million Dolphins and Lolasanas, a little joke but you will need this strength built up to stabilize the back. Uncontrolled arching of the back or neck are part of the warnings from above. And this is also why Pincha Mayurasana is learned before Vrisikasana. 

 

The next two steps are half way steps. Go into Dolphin with the feet-heels against a wall behind you. That is approximately the right distance, may have to adjust. Then walk the feet up the wall until the legs are horizontal and the torso is vertical. Maybe raise one leg up to vertical. This is another variation of Ardha Pincha Mayurasana. 

 

The other prep is to go into dolphin and step one foot as far forward as possible. Then lift the other leg into splits, then little jumps with the lower leg to try and get a jump to float or hold. 

 

I suppose the very first step would be learning how to crash without getting hurt. That is tuck the head and roll onto one shoulder. Be careful of the neck!!!

 

The Drishti is the nose.

 

And the Ashtangi exit is jumping or dropping directly to Chaturanga Dandasana - What! that's what it is.  Or you can just lower the legs gently.

 

And please understand that my post is meant to be helpful. These are things that I have made mistakes with and wish I knew before. Thankfully no injuries but it took a heck of a long time for me to understand why my back was so tight at one point.

Tyra and yogafire like this

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Just adding this article I found today.  The floor presses in this article, lolasanas (I can't jump back, but I'll lift knees), and dolphins offer enough variety for me to work on strengthening.  I suspect my neck and trapezius muscles have been overworked and extremely sore / tight due to weaker serratus anterior muscles, so now I'm been focusing on strengthening for stability first, and then eventually other arm balances or inversions.  It's not good for my body to skip to the end goal, so thank you Anahata and Candace for giving me inspiration on building my upper body strength more gradually.

Laura likes this

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