Yoga Practice, Yoga Teacher

Prepping Our Students for Arm Balances

Those elusive poses we see all over Instagram and Yoga Journal. As Yoga Teachers, we probably learned them at some point, fell out of them and got frustrated and tucked them into the back of our mind, our cups so full of everything else we were learning. Until of course, one of our students starts asking about them.

How can we safely begin to prep our students for these poses? It will be slightly different for each pose however the good news is that ALL yoga prepares us for these larger poses. We will need strength and mobility that our general yoga classes provide. Let’s break this down by pose, and the muscles involved for prep work.

Crow Pose:

  • upper body strength – crocodile and plank
  • core strength – plank and boat
  • adductors – standing straddle splits

Side Crow:

  • all of the above now adding spinal twists – twisted lunge, twisted chair or twisted triangle


  • upper body strength – crocodile and sun salutations
  • adductors and hamstrings – seated straddle splits
  • quad strength – warrior poses
  • core strength – boat or cheetah pose

Eight Angle/Elephant:

  • upper body strength – crocodile
  • hip openers – cradle the baby or pigeon
  • core strength – boat or side plank

The other important aspect we must prepare our students for is the mental aspect. This involves the ability to let go of whether we actually do the pose or not. We must cue our students to have fun through the process and essentially embrace their inner child. The more stuck one becomes on having to get the pose, the further the pose becomes. There is an energetic shift that is required to find the balance of the pose that can only be sensed by the individual in practice. Much like riding a bike, once we find this shift (and providing our physical strength is maintained) we will always be able to find the pose again.

Don’t be afraid to try these poses in your classes. Sometimes, the lessons of the poses are most profound when our students aren’t successful. As long as we share the preps, the mindfulness cues and aren’t afraid to fall out of them ourselves we have the capacity to deepen our students by showing them that it actually has nothing to do with the final pose anyway!

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