Yoga Arm Balances for Intermediate to Advanced Practice

Arm balances always look amazing but they can be intimidating to try. If you gain an understanding of the foundations of arm balances, you can safely explore these poses and expand your yoga practice. We'll show you how the poses follow certain patterns and build off one another to get you flying high.


Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Most people start with Crow Pose (Bakasana). Crow offers an excellent opportunity to learn where your center of gravity is and how to use that knowledge to keep yourself from tipping over.

Practitioners who are new to arm balances often underestimate how far forward you need to lean in order to get your feet off the ground.

Other common issues in Crow are putting the knees to the outside of the upper arms instead of using the arms as a shelf. Make sure to also start with your butt high. If it's too low, it weighs you down. 


Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Woman on yoga mat in side crow pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Once you feel comfortable in Crow, the natural next step is to work on Side Crow. There are actually two versions of this pose. People usually first learn the pose with the hips on one arm and the knees on the other.

This is a pretty stable position that may even feel easier than the regular crow. In the more advanced version pictured here, the legs have moved over to just one arm, leaving the other one free. You can straighten both legs out to the side for an extra flourish.


Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

Woma in eka pada koundinyasana I yoga pose.
Denise Klier / Getty Images

To do Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (which translates to, but is never called, one-legged pose dedicated to the sage Koundin) you have to begin in Side Crow. From there, extend the top leg straight back and the bottom leg that is resting on the upper arm straight out.

Focus on keeping the arms bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flexed while extending out through the heels. You should feel like you're lifting up, not sinking down.


Hurdler Pose (Eka Pada Koundinyasa II)

Woman on yoga mat in hurdler pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You'd think from the name (Eka Pada Koundinyasa II) that this pose would flow out of the previous one but it's actually a completely different approach. However, you can still trace the balance basics back to Crow Pose.

This pose also introduces the motion of "back-packing" your leg onto your upper arm. This means getting your thigh up as high as possible toward your shoulder as if you were wearing your leg as a backpack. It's going to come up a lot in the next few postures. 


Elephant's Trunk Pose (Eka Hasta Bhujasana)

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Backtracking to the backpacking idea for a minute, Elephant's Trunk Pose is the place to get comfortable with this position. It really is a lot like throwing your leg over your shoulder, or realistically as close to your shoulder as possible.

It's also important that your leg doesn't just hang out there but actively hugs your arm. Then extend and strongly engage your other leg and press into your palms to lift yourself off the floor. You can keep the feet flexed, pointed, or alternate between both.

This pose is great preparation for more arm balancing. 


Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)

Woman on yoga mat in eight angle pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Astavakrasana follows directly from elephant's trunk. Once your leg is high on your arm and your hips are lifted off the ground, you can begin to hook your ankles together and shift your chest forward (becoming parallel with the floor) as your hips press back. 


Arm Pressure Pose (Bhujapidasana)

Arm Pressure Pose - Bhujapidasana
Ann Pizer

Continuing with our backpack imagery, in Bhujapidasana you're wearing your legs on both shoulders. Hooking the ankles in front helps make a tidy little package, which is easier to lift off the ground. 


Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana)

Woman on yoga mat doing firefly pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

From Bhujapidasana, you just straighten your legs to come into Firefly. It's a tough transition, however, because you're letting go of the tidy little package. It's a lot harder to manage your legs when they are on their own.

That's why it's key to really squeeze your arms with your legs the whole time. It's OK to begin with bent arms and legs and work on straightening them over time. 


Flying Crow Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)

Woman on yoga mat doing flying crow pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You can enter into Flying Crow Pose two different ways.

From Crow Pose:

  1. Engage Mula and Uddiyana Bandha to support you feeling engaged and light. Imagine that your hips could lift off of your arms.
  2. Slowly shift your weight slightly forward and into your left side while keeping both hands rooted firmly on the mat.
  3. As your weight shifts into your left side, imagine lifting your hips as you slowly extend your right leg straight back so it floats in the air. Flex your right foot.
  4. With deep breaths as you float, make sure to keep lifting the body—arms bent at a 90-degree angle, chest slightly lifted, core engaged, and hips high. Press hand into the floor as if you're trying to press away.

From crouching on the floor or while in Malasana:

  1. Place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Hasta Bandha can be helpful here.
  2. Lift your hips up and come onto the balls of your feet. Engage your core.
  3. Bend your arms as if coming into Chaturanga and snuggle the left knee up towards your left armpit. Your arms create a shelf for your left knee.
  4. Shift your weight forward while keeping your chest lifted and hips high.
  5. Lift your hips even higher so they are level with your shoulders as your right leg to floats off the ground behind you. Flex the lifted foot and breath deeply.
  6. If getting the knee into the armpit is tricky, you can first practice by placing your upper thigh on the outside of your upper arm instead.

Dragonfly Pose

Dragonfly yoga pose
PM Images / Getty Images

We're back to the riffs on side crow with Dragonfly (see the leg extending out to the side?), though the entry is slightly complicated by the fact that your other foot is essentially standing on your upper arm. You need to set this up before you take your feet off the ground.

And guess what? You'll be coming through figure four again to get there. In fact, you can still see the figure four in the legs here. It's just tipped on its side. 


Scale Pose (Tolasana)

Woman doing yoga in scale pose (tolasana)
Phil Payne Photography / Getty Images

Scale Pose is dependent on two things: major core strength and the ability to sit in Lotus. It's actually much more difficult to pull this one off if you can't come into a full lotus because having the legs contained (remember our tidy little package from above) makes them easier to lift as a unit. 


Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)

Peacock Pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

Peacock is actually pretty different from all the other arm balances shown here because of the required arm set up. The elbows must meet under your stomach with your hands turned back. It's still about finding your center of gravity but the fulcrum has changed position so it doesn't follow the Crow or Side Crow model.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.