Setup and Key Actions
Start on forearms and knees with your shoulders stacked directly above your elbows. Keeping your elbows where they are, bring your hands together into prayer position so you can press down into the entire pinky side of your forearms, wrists, and hands. From here, tuck your toes under, and press up into dolphin pose, but keep your shoulders stacked over your elbows. Walk your feet forward toward your elbows. (If you find that you’re collapsing into your shoulders, walk your feet back again and stick with dolphin for the time being.) Gaze back toward your legs. Resist your outer forearms in toward each other, and at the same time press your forearms into the floor as though you were pushing it away from you. Your head should remain off the floor at all times.
From here, lift one of your legs, bend your standing-leg knee, and kick up into a forearm balance. Keep your legs split apart at first as you work to find your balance. You might also find it helpful to bend your “front” leg knee (i.e., the leg that would be your front leg if you were doing your splits on the floor).
Continue to hug your outer forearms in toward each other and push the floor away. Instead of gazing toward your hands, tuck your chin slightly so that the crown of your head hovers away from the floor, and reach your chest back through your arms.
When you have your balance, you might experiment with bending both knees in toward your chest as you push the floor away, draw your chest through your arms, and reach back through your hips, making the “hollowback” shape. Maybe, eventually, you'll work toward straightening your legs from here. Note that you’ll want to be pretty comfortable with kicking over into a bent knee dvi pada viparita dandasana (urdhva dhanurasana on forearms) before you try this (or any hollowback variation sans wall), because it’s pretty easy to overshoot and flip over. If the possibility of flipping over into a backbend on forearms doesn’t sound safe or accessible for you right now, stick with hollowbacks at the wall for the time being.
Start with your hands close to the wall—fingers almost touching it. If you give the pose a try and discover that you’d like to take the backbend a little deeper, just start a little further away from the wall next time.
Set up on forearms and knees, shoulders over elbows, hands together in prayer, and come up into dolphin. Hug your upper arms toward each other, push the floor away, and walk your feet forward and kick one foot at a time up to the wall.
Once you’re up, tuck your chin slightly, so that you’re looking in toward the back of your mat, not at the wall.
Keep pushing the floor away and move the backs of your thighs to (or toward) the wall. It’s important to keep your low belly active here so that you don’t collapse into your low back. Engage the deep abdominal muscles in the area between your frontal hip bones like you’re cinching a drawstring, engage between your pubic bone and navel as well (like zipping a zipper), and stretch up through your inner heels.
Keep that activation in your belly as you move your chest back through your arms (away from the wall).
If you want to try the split-leg variation at the wall, set yourself up for forearmstand a little closer than a leg-length away from the wall. Everyone’s exact starting distance will depend on individual body proportions and hamstring flexibility, but erring on the side of being “too close” to the wall is a good idea at first. (You want to be close enough so that you know for sure that the wall will be there to catch you!) You can always lower down and move further away if needed. Come into your forearm stand from dolphin like usual: lift one of your legs, bend your standing-leg knee, and kick up, then bringing the foot of the leg that you lifted right to the wall. Resist your forearms in toward each other, push the floor away, and draw your chest back through your arms.