We practiced Eka Pada Galavasana in the class I attended this morning, then I was asked to teach it today during YTT. I love this pose, but I received many looks of resentment and bewilderment as I attempted to teach it to the group of trainees. Most of them wouldn't bother with trying to float the back leg... I looked up from my demonstration to see a bunch of people dangling their hands over their shin in a sad looking one-legged chair. I pleaded, "If you are not going to try to float the back leg, AT LEAST ground the hands and try shifting your weight forward..."
No response, and these are strong, capable yogis and yoginis we're talking about here. Granted, we had been practicing poses for a few hours by that point, but it was disheartening to see such a lack of enthusiasm from my peers, particularly since this pose, like many arm balances, is not really about the arm strength. Yes, you need strong shoulders and hands, but the trick to Eka Pada Galavasana is securing the shin across the upper arms to be used as a lever: on the right side, hook the right foot tightly behind and around the left upper arm, then snuggle the right knee way up into the right armpit. Keep the right foot flexed around the left arm, bend the elbows, press the right shin into the arm bones, and your hips will lift to the sky. If your left foot hovers off the floor, try extending it up and back. Easy peasy. Just make sure your hips are warm before you try it, and please, for Pete's sake, protect your knees with an active foot and stable position of the lower leg against the upper arms.
DO NOT try this if you have knee issues. One sweaty practice several weeks ago, I cranked my knee badly in this pose. I was slick with sweat, and my lower leg slipped down my arms as I began to lift into Eka Pada Galavasana. My knee made a horrifying succession of crunching noises, and has been a little strange ever since. Be careful.
Here's a strong sequence that prepares the hips nicely for flying pigeon. Play with balance, have fun, and be nice to your knees!
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose) - Begin with the right leg crossed over the left leg and the right arm crossed under the left arm.
- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3 w/ Garudasana arms)
- Eka Pada Utkatasana (One-legged Chair Pose)
- Ardha Baddha Padmotasana (Half Lotus Forward Fold)
- Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying pigeon) - Bend the left knee, plant the hands a few inches forward of your shoulders, and hook the right foot around your left upper arm, as near to the armpit as possible. Keep the foot flexed, and tuck the right knee tightly into your right armpit. Press the right shin into the upper arms, bend the elbows, bring the weight forward into your hands and play with floating the left foot from the floor.
- Repeat 1-6 on the opposite side.