Arm Balance, Hip Opener
Setup and Key Actions
Set your stance as you would for warrior II or side angle pose, and walk both hands to the inside of your front foot. Work your left shoulder under your leg. You may find it helpful to first walk your left foot a little more to the right (toward the center of your mat), which provides more stability in the pose later on. To work your shoulder under, bring your left hand to the back of your calf and lift the flesh of your calf up. Then move your left thigh back (out toward the left) to make space to work the shoulder under. Continue to work with these actions: calf up, thigh back, shoulder under. If you feel stuck, try lifting your left heel off the floor, which will allow for more hip mobility. Continue to work calf up, thigh back, shoulder under until you're as "under" as you can be.
Once you're snuggled in as much as you can, plant your left hand flat on the floor outside your left foot. Hug your arm and leg against one another. Lift your left foot off of the floor without using your hand. Try bringing your right hand up to your hip to make this easier. If your left foot is off the floor, catch hold of the pinky-toe side with your right hand.
Then begin to extend your left leg. Keep your shoulder/leg connection. Activate your deep abdominals by engaging between your two front hip points (as if you were cinching a drawstring), and move your inner thighs back. Keep that, and lift up through your low belly as well. Maintain your arm/leg connection and extend your left leg. Draw your left hip under, externally rotating your left leg. Spin your belly, rib cage, and chest up toward the ceiling. Gaze straight ahead, or turn your head to look up. Stretch your legs apart from each other. To exit the pose, bend your front knee, and release back to a lunge.
If balance is challenging in this pose, try a kneeling variation:
For this variation, you'll work your shoulder under your front leg, but from a position that's closer to the ground and a little more stable than the traditional visvamitrasana stance.
Start in a lunge with your left foot forward and your right knee down. Bring both hands to the inside of your left foot. Turn your right toes to the left, assuming a kneeling warrior II position. Work your left shoulder under your leg. As with the previous variation, lift your left calf and snuggle your shoulder under your leg: Lift the flesh of your calf up, move your left thigh back (out to the left), and work your shoulder under your thigh.
With your left shoulder under your thigh, plant your left hand flat on the floor, outside of your left foot. Press your left leg against your left arm and your left arm against your left leg. Then, without using your left hand, lift your left foot up off of the floor. If that feels impossible, try this: Bring your right hand up onto your right hip. Now see if you can lift your left foot.
If your left foot is up off of the floor, hold the pinky-toe side of your left foot with your right hand by reaching your hand over the top of your left foot.
Activate your deep abdominals by engaging between your two front hip points (as if you were cinching a drawstring), and move your inner thighs back. Keep that, and lift up through your low belly as well. Maintain your arm/leg connection and extend your left leg. Here, too, it doesn't have to extend all the way. Draw your left hip under, externally rotating your left leg. Spin your belly, rib cage, and chest up, perhaps also turning your head to gaze upward.
To release, bend your left knee, come back to a lunge, and unwind.