Use Blocks and a Wall to Customize Your Eka Pada Koundinyasana II


This article is adapted from Yoga Where You Are: Customize Your Practice for Your Body and Your Life by Yoga International featured teacher Dianne Bondy and YI editor in chief Kat Heagberg. 

We love to explore flying splits (eka pada koundinyasana II) because it’s an arm balance that’s filled with so many possibilities! There are lots of ways to get into it, interesting ways to incorporate props, and it can be fun to include in a vinyasa flow or practice on its own.


As an arm balance, flying splits both requires and can help cultivate shoulder and core strength and stability. Most of all we love this pose because it’s fun and empowering. 

The Practice 

Let’s look at two common ways to get into flying splits.

1. From the ground up 

Begin in a lunge with your right foot forward and both hands inside your right foot. You may want to experiment with moving your foot out wider or in narrower to see what feels best for you. From here, work your right upper arm/shoulder under your right leg. 

To work your leg up over your shoulder, lift your right heel from the floor, bring your right hand to the back of your calf, and press the flesh of your calf up toward your knee. Then, move your right thigh back (sticking your butt out to the right), creating space to get your upper arm and shoulder under. Keep working these three actions:

1. Calf up 

2. Thigh back 

3. Shoulder under until your upper arm/shoulder is as “under” as it’s going to get. 

Then lower your right heel down, plant your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot with your elbows bent (think “chaturanga arms”). Keep your chest broad, the front of your shoulders lifting away from the floor, and your gaze forward. 

Now, start to walk your right foot forward, toward the upper right corner of your mat, perhaps lifting it off the floor entirely. 

Keep your left foot on the floor, or shift your weight a little more forward and try to lift your left toes off the floor.

To come out, lower your back foot to the floor, followed by your front foot, and “unwind” your shoulder/upper arm from under your leg. Switch sides when ready. 

2. From three-legged dog pose

This variation is a common way to incorporate eka pada koundinyasana II into a flow, and some people find it more accessible than the previous method. Try both and see which you like best! 

From downward dog, inhale and lift your right leg up in the air for a three-legged dog pose. On an exhale, shift forward, as though you are coming into plank, and bend your right knee, bringing it to the outside of your right upper arm. Bend your elbows (like chaturanga) and shift more weight forward into your fingertips as you straighten your right leg. Gaze forward. Keep your left toes on the floor, or, continuing to shift your weight forward, see if you can float your left foot off the ground. 

To come out, return your left foot to the floor and stretch your right leg back into three-legged dog. Alternatively, you could come out of the pose by swinging your right leg back behind you to come into a one-legged chaturanga! 

Variation 1: Back Foot on a Block

Place a block at the back of your mat on its lowest setting. Come into a low lunge with your right foot forward and left knee down with your left toes tucked under on top of the block. Place both hands inside your right foot and work your right shoulder under your right knee (as described in option 1 above). Your inner right thigh will rest on your right upper arm like the arm is a shelf. Hug your left arm into your left rib cage. Lower your chest toward the floor and heel-toe your right foot out to the right until you can lift it off the floor. Keep your chest broad, and press into your hands. Press out through your left heel and lift your left knee off the floor. Gaze down toward the floor or look toward your right extended leg.

Stay for a few breaths if you can, then lower your left knee to the floor, lower your right foot back to a lunge, and unwind your shoulders. Then switch sides. 

Variation 2: At a Wall Corner With a Block 

Using a block and two walls can help you support this pose while you’re building strength. 

Find a corner and, with a block within reach, start in a low lunge with your right foot forward and left knee down, left toes tucked. One wall should be to your right and the other wall behind you. As you come into the lunge, get close enough to the wall behind you that the ball of your left foot is on the baseboard.

Bring your hands to the inside of your right foot. Have the block in place on its tallest setting, so that it can support your sternum once you’ve worked your right shoulder/upper arm under your thigh, as described in previous variations. Once you’ve worked your shoulder under, use the back of your right arm as a shelf for your inner right thigh. Hug your left elbow in, keep your chest broad, and lift your left knee off the floor. Pressing down into your hands, hop your left foot up the wall just above the baseboard. Press down into the block as you heel-toe your right foot out to the side, and then bring the sole of your right foot to the other wall. Push both feet into the walls, press down through your hands, and stay broad through your chest, placing less weight on the block. Gaze slightly forward.

Stay for a few breaths, then return to your lunge, unwind your shoulders, and turn around to do the other side.

Variation 3: Foot on Wall, Hands on Blocks

This is similar to the previous variation, only instead of having both feet on the wall, you’ll have one foot on the wall. The blocks will give you some extra lift in the pose. Blocks are especially nice if your arms are on the shorter side. 

Begin with the short edge of your mat against a wall. Facing away from the wall, come into a lunge with your right foot forward and the ball of your back foot touching the wall. 

Have one block on its lowest setting underneath each hand. Grasp the edges of your blocks with your fingertips, and think of your blocks as extensions of your hands: they move with you as you work your way into the pose. You can begin with both hands/blocks inside your right foot, but as you weave your right shoulder under your right thigh, your right hand and block will move to the outside of your right foot. 

Once your arm is as “under” as it’s going to get, with one hand/block on either side of your right foot, bend your elbows for “chaturanga arms” and start to walk your right foot forward, maybe lifting your foot away from the floor. Then, shifting your weight forward into your fingertips a bit more, hop the ball of your left foot onto the wall. Your left knee will be a little bent at first. 

From here, straighten your left leg, pressing your whole left foot into the wall. This will shift your weight more into your fingertips. Keep your chest and collarbones broad and your gaze forward. 

To come out, gently lower your back foot to the ground (bending your left knee a little when you hop down). From there, you can bend your right knee, return your right foot to the floor for a lunge, and unwind out of the pose; or it might feel good to reach your right leg back, coming into a sweet, spacious downward facing dog with your heels on the wall and hands on blocks. Switch sides when you’re ready.

FromYoga Where You Are: Customize Your Practice for Your Body and Your Life©2020 by Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg. All photos by Andrea Killam. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.

About the Teacher

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Dianne Bondy
Dianne Bondy is a social justice activist, author, accessible yoga teacher, and the leader of the Yoga... Read more

About the Teacher

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Kat Heagberg (Rebar)
Hi, I’m Kat! I’m a teacher for Yoga International and co-author of Yoga Where You Are with Dianne Bondy... Read more