Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose), or Forearm Stand, is a great way to change your perspective on the world. By turning upside-down, we shake things up a bit and allow for a new mindset. That is the first and most important aspect of this pose – your feet are in the air, which changes your idea of stability and grounding and support. In an effort to get through and embrace the fear of flinging yourself into the air, we recommend spending a lot of prep time upside-down under safer conditions.
Take a few sun salutations to warm-up the body, steady the breath, and acquaint yourself with how you’re feeling today (what you need to be careful of, where you are feeling strong/flexible, etc).
1. Start by holding Adho Mukha Svanasana for at least a minute with steady breath. In fact, if you can build up to 2 or 3 minutes in this pose, it’s only going to help. Consider that you will need the strength to prepare your body, find your alignment, move through your fears, and try a few times to get into the pose, THEN hold the pose and return down safely. That’s a long time. You’ll want stamina to be the last thing on your mind. While you are in your Downward Dog, focus on planting the hands firmly shoulder-distance apart, strengthening the arms and turning the upper arm bones away from the ears; relax the upper traps and strengthen the lower traps; lift the hips high and pull the naval toward the spine; push the inner thighs back so the knees point forward, extend through the heels, spread the toes.
2. Once you’ve built up your Downward Dog hold, lower your knees to the floor at the same time. Place your blocks under your elbows as depicted below (second height, width-wise, touching each other). Place your elbows on the blocks shoulder-distance apart. Roll your upper arms outward to make space between your inner shoulders. Push your elbows down and isometrically pull them toward each other. This will help you to retain the good shoulder alignment. You do not want to sink the chest to the point that your upper back loses stability. Duck your head under your hands and place your hands together in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Pose, palms together). Place your thumbs on your spine. Move the chest toward the floor until you feel a nice stretch. If you want to go deeper and you are able to sustain good shoulder alignment, walk the knees back and continue to drop the heart toward the floor. Hold for 10 slow breaths.
3. The previous pose should familiarize your body with the desired opening of the chest along with the shoulder strength required to avoid over-stretching. Now, you’re ready to conquer Dolphin Pose. This is another pose that we recommend holding for at least 1 minute. If you can work up to 2-3 minutes, it will serve you better. The main challenge in this pose is to keep the elbows shoulder-distance apart. They will want to splay out. You can put a strap just above the elbows and hold a block (wide) between the hands; you can start with the hands a little wider than shoulder-distance; or you can just really focus on rolling the forearms in. Push the inner forearms and wrists down and do your very best to keep them there. See Downward Dog for more alignment cues.
4. From Dolphin, lift one leg in the air and hold for 5 breaths. Work up to 10 breaths. Lower. Lift the other leg and repeat. The leg in the air must turn in so the toes and knee point down. The foot is flexed and the thigh is fully engaged. Rest. Once you have built up to 10 breaths with each leg, start to play with kicking up. Feel free to use a wall. With the shoulder blades on the back, down away from the ears, and the chest open, the navel pulled back and the feet as close to the elbows as possible, lift one leg and bend the bottom leg significantly. Use the BOTTOM leg to push off of. Start to hop little hops with the intention of bringing the hips over the shoulders. If your shoulders come out of alignment or the neck starts to tense, take a break. If you can remain in good alignment and keep a steady breath, keep hopping little hops until you find balance, if even for a moment.
*Try to detach from getting into the final pose. It is a goal and it is a thrilling concept, BUT when we attach to the goal, we miss the journey. The journey is going to prepare your body and mind to reach and sustain the goal.*
5. Once you get up, try to hold the pose for 5 slow breaths. Keep the shoulders away from the ears, inner wrists planted, elbows shoulder distance, naval back, and legs strongly pushing upward.
6. Rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose) when finished. Hold for at least 1 minute.
End your practice with a 5-10 minute Savasana to soak it all in.
*Please note: this mini practice is meant for a new mindset. There are many, many ways to prepare the body for the pose and we highly recommend consulting a professional yoga teacher in person or a reliable online reference for more information on preparing for the pose.