Yoga Arm Balances: How to Build Strength and Stability


Yoga arm balances are a great way to build strength and stability. Helen Krag explores some ‘advanced’ poses and flows – and offers a reminder that ‘success’ always comes down to the quality of the breath.

For me, the arm balance category of poses is the one that provokes the most diverse mix of feelings. On one hand they can feel so challenging that I have a battle in my head before I even get started. On the other, the sense of achievement when I access Crow, or sustain Chaturanga for more than a couple of seconds, is joyful. In those moments I feel invincible!

Together with inversions, arm balances are most likely to provoke in me a sense of competition – perhaps a throwback to gymnastics classes in my teens! Therefore, they serve as a great reminder that it really is not about ‘performance’; ‘ticking off’ the poses I can do; or berating myself for the ones I can’t!

“If we measure ourselves on the ruler of the back bends we can do, the arm balances we have mastered… we will find ourselves cast adrift the moment any of these attributes is taken from us.”

Donna Farhi

Something I have noticed in my practice is this. The harder I try, and the more I ‘cling on’, the more difficult it becomes!

“The real magic of arm balancing is in the lightness and ease. Breathing deeply is foremost.”

Kristi Rodelli (Johnson), Forrest Yoga Teacher

When the breath is deep and focused, the mind is quiet and we are most likely to find balance. Read more from Kristi on the essential ingredients for arm balances. Approach these postures with a holistic mindset, a sense of humour and a healthy dose of curiosity, and you’ll soon start to reap the benefits.


Yoga arm balances can help:

  • Strengthen the wrists, arms and shoulder girdle – as well as other parts of the body.
  • Build abdominal and core strength.
  • Improve proprioception and spacial awareness.
  • Sharpen balance reflexes and prevent falls.
  • Give insights into our practice and provide perspective.


As with all yoga postures, personal safety is important. Here are some key considerations:

  • Use a yoga mat or cushioned surface to protect the palms, hands and elbows. · Warm up the body before attempting anything too challenging. Building Strength for Arm Balances with Kristin Campbell will take you through some hip openers, core work, wrist strengthening and shoulder stabilisation.
  • Ease your way in gradually – avoid sudden movements.
  • Spread the fingers in a star shape and press the fingertips into the mat for better grip and alignment.
  • Think of the neck as an extension of the spine and ensure it is aligned to the body to avoid neck injury.
  • If you want feedback, consider taking a video of yourself rather than straining to use a mirror.


These short tutorials help you find the correct alignment and master each pose. Why not follow up with a class of your choice from the next section?

Chaturanga Dandasana (4-Limbed Stick Pose) with Andrew McGonigle

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose) with Andrew McGonigle

Check out some additional Chaturanga Tips from Kirsty Norton.

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose / Flying Plank) with Vidya Heisel

Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose / Forearm Balance) with Vidya Heisel

Maksikanagasana (Dragonfly Pose) with Vidya Heisel

Bakasana (Crow Pose) – The Crow Pose Challenge

[Note: Baka is the Sanskrit word for crane, the wading bird. Kaka is the word for crow. Some schools of yoga use Crane and Crow interchangeably to refer to the same posture – Bakasana. You may also hear it called Kakasana.]

Crow pose is often one of the first yoga arm balances taught to students, so it’s worth a special focus. Here is a series of tutorials to help you move into Crow Pose. There’s something for everyone in this challenge. From warm up and strength building sequences; through in-depth tutorials; and on to transitions from Crow. Are you ready to take flight?

Handstand – The Handstand Challenge

Have fun and get strong with the king of arm balances – handstand.

Building a handstand practice has amazing benefits for our posture, strength and flexibility. Going upside down lets blood flow to the head and upper body, giving us renewed energy and a sense of calm. It can also increase core strength, bone strength and balance. And it’s so much fun.

This Handstand course is a great place to get started!


These classes are intermediate / advanced in terms of their level of challenge. They each build to a peak arm balance pose so you can progress at an appropriate rate for you. Remember to breathe deeply!

Juicy Core Arm Balances with Kristi Rodelli

A Forrest Yoga class which covers Dolphin Pose and Crow, amongst others.

Finding Strength and Flexibility with  Jean Hall

This strong vinyasa class builds gradually and gracefully from the ground through standing poses and arm balances to the peak pose of Utthita Vasisthasana (Extended Pose of the Sage Vasistha / Extended Side Plank).

Arm Balances: Strength & Power with Leila Sadeghee

This slow burn dynamic sequence builds strength in the shoulders and core and opens the hips to prepare you for Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Split Leg Arm Balance).

Advanced Vinyasa Flow Leading to Dragonfly Pose with Vidya Heisel

There’s plenty of variety and challenge in this fun, feisty class which builds to Maksikanagasana (Dragonfly Pose)

Flow Towards Flying Pigeon Pose with Kristin Campbell

This sequence builds up gradually to Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Pigeon Pose), which is essentially Pigeon Pose perched on top of Chaturanga.

Flow to Scorpion Pose with Vidya Heisel

This advanced vinyasa flow is suitable for those who have a regular inversions practice. The peak pose is Vrschikasana (Scorpion Pose).

Firefly Vinyasa Flow with Vidya Heisel

This advanced class is short and intense, building to Titibasana (Firefly Pose) and Utthan Pristhasana (Flying Lizard)


It’s good to challenge ourselves, and the poses and classes featured here enable us to work on our stamina and balance. There is greater ease when we marry physical effort with a deep quality of breath and stillness. So, breathe deeply… and remember to smile

Further reading on building strength in yoga

Author: Helen Krag. Helen is a health and wellness enthusiast; observer of human behavioural change; yoga teacher trainee; passionate traveller; and lover of the outdoors.


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