Ah, balancing poses… It used to be that Tree Pose would do the trick…
… but let’s face it, these days, what with everyone doing yoga and tree pose in everything from car commercials to films, it’s a little like Chinese food: when it first appeared on the scene, it was exotic and sought after… but after Thai food arrived, why get Chinese when you could get Thai? (Unless, of course, you’re Chinese or Thai.)
Well, if Tree Pose is like Chinese Food, then Balancing Shoulder Stand is my attempt at yoga Thai fare. (I know, the metaphor is starting to crumble. But hey, I’m no Shakespeare and I was just illustrating a cross-cultural culinary/mind-body point.)
Here is Balancing Shoulder Stretch in 3 simple steps.
1. Grab the strap and pull your arms back to where the stretch feels good to your shoulders. Tilt your chest forward and bend your knees slightly. Here are two views, front and sideways, to give you a better sense of the position. Be sure to even out the distribution of your weight between the balls of your feet and your heels. Keep your elbows straight. Take 2 slow breaths here.
2. Shift the weight of your body to your right foot and lift your left leg. I always suggest looking down at an angle during balance positions, as doing so helps to ground you.
3. Cross your left shin on top of your right thigh. Lean forward a little more. Bend your right knee a little more too, to provide better support for the left shin.
You will naturally tend to lean forward to compensate for the balance. Do that while still keeping your arms drawn back and your right knee bent.
Take 3 slow breaths… and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Good shoulder and chest opener. Great new balance to play around with. Plus, it makes the old tree pose damned tame by comparison.
Avoid if: Most of the stress of this pose falls on the shoulders with the intense stretch. If your shoulders joints don’t have the range of motion to do this, or it they ache in the position, either modify the angle of the arms (or how wide you hold the strap) till it’s doable, or skip the pose altogether.
Final thoughts: Balancing Shoulder Stretch should not be confused with Balancing Shoulder, Hidden Dragon. Which reminds me, is anybody up for Chinese food and a movie?