As recently as a year ago, I would have laughed out loud at the title of the post. Arm balances I *like*? They are all torture!
I’ll be honest. I can’t say I’ve really mastered any but crow, but I can start to do some and definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is kind of fun! I can get my feet up a bit in side crow on both sides, and sometimes in firefly (disclaimer: they are nowhere near straight). I’m close to getting the second foot off the ground in kundinyasana.
Teachers have said these are about balance and core, not strength, which I think is a little disingenuous. I have definitely built strength over the three years I’ve been practicing, I’m guessing mainly through doing full/regular chaturanga in vinyasa flow classes (= a lot per class, no knees down!). Some amount of arm strength is necessary, and I think for most women, it’s necessary to build that strength even if you have the next requirement under your belt – flexibility.
In some poses, like side crow and kundinyasana, flexibility is important too. You have to be able to get into the right position so it’s easy to keep your elbow where it will actually support the weight. Even if you do have the strength (as probably a lot of guys who cannot do kundinyasana or side crow do), you’ll never get into the right position to start to lift up if you cannot get into the twist far enough to get your elbow under your hip.
And lastly, my friend balance. Due to my fear of headstand and more generally falling over backwards in that direction, I don’t go always go as far forward as I need to gain my balance. This is really important though – these poses don’t take as much strength if you get the alignment right, because the alignment gives you balance.
Arm balance workshops used to scare me. To be honest, I still don’t go to many workshops. Although I think some amount of instruction and practice is helpful … I don’t think a workshop would have been useful to me a year ago. It has just taken time for all my yoga stars to align to be able to get into arm balances.
But that is the good news for me: time has been the necessary ingredient – not super powers!