Bhujapindasana (Shoulder-Pressing Pose) is the first arm balance you will encounter when you practice the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Series. This pose will require a lot of core activation, and a good way to strengthen the core is to practice Navasana (Boat Pose) and pay attention in all the jumping backs and through. However, Bhujapindasana, like many other postures, will require not only core strength, but also a combination between flexibility and strength in many different parts of the body.
Let’s break this posture down…
First step: preparation. In order to move the legs around the arms, you will need flexibility on your hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) and adductors (inner thighs). If you can bring your legs around your arms – at least above the elbows – and cross your feet, this could be a good place to stay if you do not have enough strength to move forward to the next step yet.
Second step: crown of the head or chin down towards the mat. Use your exhalation to move all the way down. In this movement, you will need flexibility and strength in different parts of the body at the same time.
In terms of flexibility, your ability to flex the wrist will depend on the flexibility at the back of your forearm and the strength at the front of the forearm – these two groups of muscles will compensate each other in order to stabilize the wrist as you move your chin or head down. To be able to really engage the muscles at the front of the forearm, it is advisable to press the fingertips and the knuckles of your hands firmly down, especially the base of the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
From here, to get into the full version of the pose, it is also necessary to be able to extend your chin without collapsing the back of the neck too much – this leads us into the next aspect, which is strength.
With regards to strength, your core and shoulders have to be able to support you as you move all the way down, as well as when you hold the posture for 5 deep breaths. In order to do this, always keep your back rounded, as this action will help keep your belly or core active. Also, fully exhaling will engage the transverse abdominal muscles. Squeeze the elbows in just enough to engage the muscles on the chest (pectoralis).
Another tip, which can make a big difference in the posture has to do with the legs. Our legs are directly related with the Mula Bandha (the root lock) and the lower abdominal area activation. In order to awaken these areas, keep the toes activated and squeeze the inner thighs together.
If you are new to this pose, and you are worried about falling forward, place a pillow in front of you, or move yourself backwards on your mat, so that you will have a softer surface to support the impact in case you will not be able to control the movement yet.
Remember to always keep practicing and be patient with the process. Dedication and diligence will get you there and beyond =) Have a good practice today!