Asana of the Week: Pincha Mayurasana
Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose) is a challenging inverted arm balance that demands strong shoulders, abdominals, and, most of all, focus.
Pincha can be especially intimidating because the face is so close to the floor. There may be a fear of falling on one's face as if the arms are not strong enough, but, in reality, if you should fall out of the posture, you are more likely to flop over than to collapse because integrated core strength is much more crucial to sustaining this balance than powerful arms.
That being said, don't flop over; which is not to say, "don't fall." By all means, fall! Fall your little heart out. Just don't flip or flop. Tuck and roll. Set your head down and roll out. You'll be fine. If you don't believe me, keep practicing Sirsasana (Headstand) and Dolphin Pose until you feel ready.
So, now that you know how to fall, let's talk about how NOT to fall. Start with a solid foundation. From a kneeling position, set the elbows shoulder-width on the mat. First, lay the hands down with the palms up to encourage the shoulders to broaden. Then turn the palms down, spread the hands, ground the wrists, and bring readiness to the fingertips. Tuck your toes under, lift your hips, and walk your feet in as far as you can. Try to position the shoulders over the elbows as in the full posture. Set your gaze somewhere south of the thumbs so your neck is not overextended, then lift one leg high in the air, keeping the hips square.
With an inhalation, push off gently with the back foot as you pull up with the lifted leg. Do not kick or swing. Remember: small movements. Don't overdo it. You will end up in something like this:
From there, slowly scissor the legs together at the center, point the feet, and lift the toes to the sky. It is common in those with tight shoulders for the elbows to slide apart and the hands to smush together. You can put a book or block between the hands to stabilize your foundation, OR (listen up, Ashtangis!) you can try this fabulous cheat via Swenson: put the tips of the thumbs together.
A solid drishti is essential. Find a pulled thread on your practice rug, a piece of lint, or (my favorite) an errant dog hair, and stare that sucker down. Remember your bandhas and don't forget to breathe.