A More Accessible Arm Balance
Eka Pada Koundinyasana II at the Wall
The arm balance eka pada koundinyasana II (sometimes referred to as “flying splits”) is a common offering in vinyasa classes, but it can also be inaccessible and frustrating for a lot of people. With the help of two walls, a room corner, and maybe a block, you may just find this high-flying hamstring stretch becomes a little more attainable and a lot more fun!
To warm up for eka pada koundinyasana II, prepare your body with hip and hamstring stretches, arm strengthening asanas like chaturanga prep—not so much that it tires you out, but just enough to feel and access the strength of your arms—and a few of your favorite abdominal-strengthening exercises. Eka pada koundinyasana II works best as a pinnacle or apex pose that you are warmed up enough to explore at about the 40-minute mark of your asana practice. Take time to check in with your breath, and remember that feeling confident in complex arm balances takes time and practice.
When you’re ready, find a corner where two walls meet, and place the short edge of your mat against one wall—a little less than a leg’s length from the corner to begin with. The first step of this pose is finding the ideal distance for your mat, as your exact distance from the walls will depend a lot on your body proportions.
Come onto your hands and knees facing the center of the room so that one wall is behind you and the other is to the side of you. Position yourself in relation to the walls so that you can fully extend one leg out behind you and the other out to the side and touch each wall with a foot. You may need to adjust your mat’s distance from the walls once you’ve established your ideal starting position.
Here’s where your hip-opening practice is going to serve you well: from hands and knees, step forward with the leg closest to the wall beside you, landing in a low lunge. Walk your front foot out wider—bringing it right to the edge of your mat—so that you come into a wide low lunge with both hands to the inside of your front foot.
Next, walk your back knee back until you can bring the ball of your back foot onto the wall behind you (you may find that you need to come out of the pose and adjust your distance from the wall at this point). Bend your elbows as you would for chaturanga, making a shelf on which to balance the back of your front leg on the same-side upper arm. As you bend into chaturanga arms, melt (lower) your heart toward the floor while staying broad through your chest and collarbones. Keeping your hips lifted in lunge, lift up your front foot and press it into the wall beside you, and bring your back foot up to press the entire sole of the back foot into the wall behind you. Now you have the shape of eka pada koundinyasana II!
It’s fine if your front leg remains bent, but you may find that as you get stronger in the pose, you can challenge yourself by shifting your mat farther and farther away from the wall at your side until only the toes of your front foot are on the wall to maintain your balance.
You may also find that placing a yoga block at its second highest height under your sternum helps your balance.
To practice the pose on the other side, simply adjust your mat until one wall is on the other side of your body and one is behind you, and repeat the steps above.
Taking your time and using props as tools are great opportunities to experiment with how an asana can be customized for your individual body. Have fun giving this variation a try! Remember, the goal is not to change our bodies to achieve any particular asana but to redesign the asanas to fit our own unique and wonderful bodies!
Dianne Bondy – Dianne Bondy is a celebrated yoga teacher, social justice activist and leading voice of the Yoga For All movement. Her inclusive view of yoga asana and philosophy inspires and empowers thousands of followers around the world - regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity, or level of ability.
She applies over 1000 hours of training to help her students find freedom, self-expression and radical self-love in their yoga practice. She shares her message and provides millions of... Read more>>