Step-by-Step Breakdown: Chin Balance
Be prepared to get bendy! Chin balance requires a majorly open back, which means open hips and open shoulders too. Basically this pose is all about opening—a great thing to practice in the colder, less-light-filled months when we tend to close off.
Take it slow with this one. Chin balance is a major deep backbend, and there is no rush to get into any “final” pose. Be where you are—it is a great place to be!
Start with ankle-to-knee on each side to open your hips. Sitting upright, take your right shin parallel to the front of the mat and stack your left shin directly on top of and in line with it, keeping your feet flexed to protect your knees. If your knees and ankles are not touching, place blankets in between them. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat with your left shin on the bottom.
|Once your hips are nice and open, do this back-bending variation on sun salutations: Start standing, then inhale your arms high and exhale them down to the ground in a reverse swan dive motion. Inhale your right leg back to a low lunge, tap your back knee down, sink your hips, and reach your arms high into a crescent lunge, as shown. Then release your hands to frame your front foot and step back to down dog.|
|From down dog, roll out to plank pose on an inhale, then exhale your knees, chest, and chin to the ground, as shown. Inhale to baby cobra, reaching your chest through your shoulders; exhale back to down dog.|
|From there, inhale your right leg high, open the hip, bend the knee as shown, and then step your right foot between your hands and tap your back knee down, keeping your left toes tucked. Sink your hips and reach your arms high back to crescent lunge. Then swing your arms back, step the left foot to meet the right, clasp your hands behind your sacrum, and forward fold. Release your hands and, one vertebra at a time, roll your way up to stand as you inhale your arms all the way to the sky. Repeat on the left side, doing this sun salutation 3 to 5 times on each side.|
|After your sun salutations, take a few rounds of cat/cow, and then come into some of your favorite backbends. Bridge, wheel, locust, bow, and camel (pictured) are all great options. Pick at least three different backbends and stay in each of them for 5 to 10 deep breaths.|
|Now that your back is open, activate your core. Come to all fours and reach your right arm forward and your left leg back. Bend your left knee and grab your left ankle with your right hand, opening the shoulder and breathing for 5 deep breaths.|
|Release the foot and, on an inhale, reach your right arm forward and your left leg back, arching your back slightly. On your exhale, round your knee to your nose, contracting your navel to your spine. Do this 10 times, then repeat the whole sequence with your left arm forward and your right leg back.|
|Now that your core is engaged and your hips, shoulders, and back are open, try coming into a prep variation of the chin balance: Place blocks shoulder-width apart on your mat. From all fours, place your hands firmly down on the mat, fingertips touching the blocks and elbows bent back and grazing your rib cage. Allow your knees, chest, and chin to rest lightly on the floor and allow the tops of your shoulders to rest on the blocks. Lift one leg at a time toward the ceiling. (If you want to take the in-between step with one leg resting on the other foot, see the next photo.) Breathe here for 5 deep breaths.|
|If chin balance on the blocks feels comfortable, try it without the blocks: From plank, lower to one-legged knees, chest, and chin, then lift your right leg high, reaching through your inner leg.|
|Bend your left leg, knee on the ground, and allow your right thigh to be supported by your left foot.|
|When your back feels open enough and ready, lift your left leg to meet the right. Breathe here for as long as comfortable, and then rest in child’s pose for 5 deep breaths. When you are done playing around with this, unwind by taking a spinal twist to both sides on your back.|
Photos: Vera Boykewich