Pincha Mayurasana is a strong, advanced arm balance that can be quite challenging but also very rewarding.
To begin, come to all fours and measure out the distance between the arms by placing the hands on the opposite elbows. Keeping the elbows exactly where they are, place the hands the exact same distance apart so that the forearms are parallel. Walk the feet toward the hands trying to bring the hips over the shoulders and the shoulders over the elbows. The more you can stack here, the less momentum you will need to find the final balance. Look in-between the hands. For those with really open hamstrings, you might be able to walk the feet close enough so that you can lift into the pose one leg at a time. For most of us, however, we will need to kick up. Try and use only as much momentum as necessary to find your balance. It helps to have a spot here in the beginning to help you find that perfect amount of kick. Try and alternate the leg you kick up with so that you stay balanced in the body.
(Note: For many beginners, inflexibility in the shoulders is the limiting factor in the pose and as a result, the elbows splay out, the hands squeeze together, and in the final pose, a significant back arch develops. Check with your teacher to see if you are ready to take the final pose. You can work to open the shoulders by placing a strap around the elbows and keeping a block in-between the hands and instead of coming all the way into the pose, simply walk the feet forward, pressing the chest back toward the feet. The closer to 180 degrees you can open the shoulders, the easier the pose becomes and you avoid creating tension in the upper back, which can easily happen if you start practicing Pincha Mayurasana before you are ready – be patient)
Once you are up, draw your front ribs back into the body and lengthen your low back by tucking the tailbone. Keep the shoulder blades firm against the back and rotate them wide by engaging the serratus anterior (those muscles on the outside of the rib cage). Lift the shoulder blades by pressing into the mat and lifting the head a little further away from the floor. Holding here, engage mula bandha, draw the bellybutton back toward the spine, and lift through the inner legs. I like to imagine that there is a rope attached to my ankles, drawing me up toward the ceiling.
Hold for however long you like, eventually working your way up to a minute or more. To come down, keep pressing through the shoulders to maintain the relationship of the arms to the torso as much as possible while piking the legs down as slowly as possible. Working to strengthen the torso on the negative will help you control the lift of the legs when coming into the pose.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!