Everyone's favorite forearm or elbow balance, Pincha Mayurasana is the Feathered Peacock Pose that is excellent for toning your arms. Some consider it the easiest pose to balance in before practicing a full handstand without support.
(Pronounced as "PEEN-CHA my-YOUR-AHS-anna")
The Sanskrit words pinca and mayura mean the "feathers of a peacock." In this pose, you balance on your forearms while arching and lifting your legs up like a peacock, lifting up and spreading its tail feathers.
Kneel down on your yoga mat about 4 inches away from a wall. Bend over and put your elbows, forearms and the palms of your hands on the mat in front of you. Spread your fingers and point them straight ahead. Keep your elbows and hands in a straight line, and your elbows must remain directly below your shoulders. Rotate your upper shoulders out, spreading your chest wide.
Lift your knees up off of the ground and stretch your legs straight behind you, lifting your hips up as high in the air as you can. Imagine that your legs are performing Adho Mukha Shvanasana, or Downward-Dog Pose. Focus on lifting your shoulders away from the floor while tightly pulling your shoulder blades into your back. Lift your head and look up at the wall right in front of you, which helps you to start creating an arch that extends up through your entire spine.
As you continue lifting your hips back and up, take a breath. On your next exhalation, practice hopping your legs up at first until you feel confident enough to kick your legs up over your head. Then put one foot slightly toward the midline of your body, bend that knee and push your body up forcefully while using that leg as a spring to launch both of your legs up. As one leg helps to spring you up, the other leg stays straight and swings up automatically after the other.
You can help create extra momentum to kick up by extending your spine as far back as you can, pressing your heels down to the floor first. Then swing your hips forward at the same time that you kick your legs up. You heels will now rest on the wall above your head.
Practice alternating between kicking up with your right leg as the spring and kicking with your left leg as the spring. This way, you'll develop strength evenly in both legs.
When your weight is entirely on your forearms, continue pulling your shoulders up from the floor and push back away from the wall onto your elbows. Keep your legs together and your toes pointed. Do not relax your legs after your feet come into contact with the wall. Instead, go on engaging your thigh muscles to maintain straight legs. Then push your legs up and keep lengthening your back. Pull your navel in toward your spine as well.
Remain in this posture for about 15 seconds. As you build up your stamina, then you can practice holding Pincha Mayurasana for up to one minute. Then to come out of the pose, exhale and lower one leg down at a time.
It will be difficult to balance if you do not position your arms correctly and maintain active shoulders. To create a firmer foundation to balance on, use a yoga block. Brace the yoga block against the wall so that the block only sticks out about 4 inches from the wall. Here, you have two choices. If you are new to this posture, then press the block between the palms of your hands, keeping your wrists perpendicular to the floor. Curl your fingers around the block completely.
If you want to do more advanced work on your shoulders and wrists, then put your palms down on the floor on either side of the block. The sides of your hands should press into the block in such a way that you create 90-degree angles on each hand between the thumb and first finger. In this position, focus more on pressing your wrists down firmly into the mat.
After you have established a secure grip on the block in the variation of your choice, then press your hands, wrists and forearms down firmly into the floor. Use that extra support to lift your shoulders away from the floor as you go ahead and kick your feet up against the wall.
After you learn how to balance confidently against the wall in this pose, then you should practice balancing without support. Start by doing the posture with your feet at the wall, and then you gradually move one foot away from the wall at a time, stretching the leg up higher in the air. This practice develops your core strength and helps you feel where to position your weight to balance independently of the wall. When you have reached the perfect balance, then your heels will be directly above your neck and shoulders.
When balancing away from the wall becomes easier, then you can start practicing the posture gradually further and further away from the wall to mentally let go of your dependency on it for support.
Practice Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, also known as the Half-Peacock Pose, if you need more time to build up the strength for this posture. To do it, sit with your legs straight out in front of you and press the soles of your feet into a wall. Place your hands on the ground next to the sides of your hips. Keeping one hand here to mark your position, get up on your knees.
Now turn around and put your elbows on the spot you have just marked with your hand. Get your forearms into the same position described above. The wall should be behind you. Now gradually walk your feet up the wall behind you, keeping your weight on your elbows and forearms. Walk your feet up until your thighs are straight and parallel with the floor. Press your heels into the wall as you balance, lifting your tailbone up to lengthen your spine toward the ceiling.
When you have enough strength to hold this posture for more than 30 seconds, then you are ready to start practicing the full Feathered Peacock Pose.
Since the wrists have a tendency to rise up from the floor while you practice this posture, ask a partner to help you keep them down. Have your partner kneel down on the floor next to your forearms as you come into the pose. Then they should press their hands down onto your wrists with as much force as is comfortable for you. They can also watch your shoulders to make sure that you keep your armpits open, which stops your shoulders from sinking down closer to the floor.
The best way to learn yoga is to take lessons from a professional teacher. Want to see the yoga classes near you?