Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance

Split leg arm balance is also referred to as “Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2,” hence my preferred shorter English name. This is one of my favorite arm balances, as it is so easy to incorporate into pretty much any yoga flow. The split leg arm balance is also a great transitional pose; it can take you into or out of a zillion other arm balances. Once you have this one under your belt, the sky is the limit as to where you can go.

As always, remember to be playful with arm balances: It’s just yoga, and the pose always comes to you when your body is ready for it. Here’s how to get your body (and mind) prepped for this one.

 

Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-2Happy Baby with Legs Extended
Warms up your body
Lie on your back, bend your knees, hugging them in toward your chest, and then take the outer edges of your feet in your hands, reaching your knees toward your armpits. Rock softly from left to right if that feels nice, and then slowly start to straighten your right leg. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Bend your right knee and extend your left leg and stay for 5 more deep breaths.

 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-3Bent Arm Plank Push-ups
Strengthens your arms and makes holding your body weight in the arm balance no big deal
From plank, reach back through your heels, engage your core, and soften through your elbows, reaching them straight back until your forearms graze the sides of your rib cage. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Lower all the way to the ground, inhale back to plank, and repeat 5 times.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-5Thigh Taps
Activates your core and essentially puts you in the pose before you even know you are there
From down dog, inhale your right leg high, open the hip, and tap right thigh to your right shoulder, keeping the leg straight if it’s comfortable (if not bend the knee). Bend your elbows, making a shelf for your thigh, and inhale back to down dog split. Do this five times and then repeat on the left.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-8Devotional Warrior
Opens the hips and prepares the shoulders
From down dog, step right foot forward, spin left heel down, and inhale arms up to frame head in warrior one. Allow hands to fall behind you, clasp them behind your sacrum, take a big inhale to open chest, and use your exhale to fold yourself inside of your right knee. Stay here for at least 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-12Lizard
Opens the hips
From down dog, lift your right leg high to down dog split, open your hip, bend your knee, and step your right foot outside of your right hand and tap your left knee to the ground. If it feels good, gently lower your forearms to the ground and breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the left side.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-17Runner’s Lunge
Opens your hamstrings
From a lunge with your right foot forward, tap your left knee down, and start to reach your hips back toward your left heel as you lengthen your right leg. Try to relax and fold over your right thigh. (If this is too intense on your hamstring, bend your knee until your muscles can relax.) Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the left.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-23Open-hip Split
A regular split is straight-up killer for your hamstring (and super intense for your psoas), but this is way more accessible to most people as it gives quite a bit of extra room with the hamstring being able to relax a little. You can also think of this arm balance as an open-hip split on your arm.
From down dog, inhale your right leg high, open the hip and anything else that feels good there, and reach your right heel outside of your right hand and continue to slide it forward and a bit out to the right. Only go so far as you can maintain steady breathing. (You can always modify by tapping your back knee down as in runner’s lunge.) Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, come out slowly, then repeat on the left.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-30Split-leg Arm Balance Prep 1
Come to a low lunge with your right foot forward. Coming from inside the thigh, take hold of your right ankle with your right hand, and wiggle your shoulder underneath your right thigh. Plant your right palm firmly outside of your right foot on the ground and breathe for 3 deep breaths.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-38Split-leg Arm Balance Prep 2
Now try the pose with a block supporting your back leg. Keeping your back toes on the ground, in your lunge, place a block underneath your left thigh, above the knee and not touching it.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-47Split-leg Arm Balance Prep 3
Once the block is in place and steady, get your shoulder back under your knee and set up as in the first step. Keeping your right knee bent, start to slide or wiggle your right foot away from you as you bend your elbows toward one another so they don’t wing out and reach your chest forward. With the block supporting your thigh, lift your left toes off the ground. You are in the pose! Breathe here for 3 to 5 deep breaths and then repeat all of the prep on the left side.
 Step-by-Step Breakdown: Split-leg Arm Balance-57Split-leg Arm Balance
Now try it without the block and with the front leg extended (if you wish): Start in a lunge, wiggle your right shoulder underneath your right knee, and place your right hand outside of your right foot. Bend your elbows toward one another and reach your chest forward as you extend your right leg long and lift your left foot off the ground. Have fun with this and breathe for as long as it feels good, then try it on the other side.

Photos: Vera Boykewich

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