Oops. I accidentally flipped day 38 and 37. So day 37 I did this morning and day 38 I did last night. Despite practicing Pincha Mayurasana, or Feathered Peacock pose, prep every Friday for almost a month (meaning Dolphin, which is like downward facing dog only on your forearm), I didn’t really connect in any way shape or form with the pose until last night, when I finally felt strong enough to do little kicks with my left leg and lead with my right.
Granted, three kicks and I wanted to DIE, my shoulders hurt, my arms hurt, my wrists hurt, and I felt lame, but my reaction to this inversion is a lot more like my reaction to headstand or crow: this is weird, this hurts, oh wait maybe I might be able to do this some day, than to handstands, my yoga nemeses.
I am sure I am months, if not years away from getting my feet up in the air and against a wall, much less into something fancy like scorpion, but the path to that place seems obvious. Lose more weight, build more shoulder strength, continue to loosen my hips and hamstrings with splits to get a bigger bang for my kick up, build core strength and practice locking those bandhas on command.
According to the smart people at Yoga Journal, this is the general action:
Perform a “dolphin pose” at your yoga wall, with your palms and forearms on the floor. Your fingertips should be right at the base of the wall, and your forearms parallel to each other at shoulder width. This pose isn’t quite as scary as Adho Mukha Vrksasana; it has a firmer base of support, and the head isn’t as far away from the floor. But it can still be somewhat intimidating. To ready yourself for and secure yourself in this inversion, firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your forearms inward. Finally spread your palms and press your inner wrists firmly against the floor.
Now bend one knee and step the foot in, closer to the wall (let’s say the left leg), but keep the other (i.e. right) leg active by extending through the heel. Then take a few practice hops before you try to launch yourself upside down. Sweep your right leg through a wide arc toward the wall and kick your left foot off the floor, immediately pushing through the heel to straighten the leg. Hop up and down like this several times, each time pushing off the floor a little higher. Exhale deeply each time you hop.
Hopping up and down like this may be all you can manage for now. Regularly practice your strength poses, like Adho Mukha Svanasana (or the modified version that’s the beginning position here), Plank Pose, and Chaturanga Dandasana. Eventually you’ll be able to kick all the way into the pose. At first your heels may crash into the wall, but again with more practice you’ll be able to swing your heels up lightly to the wall.
If your armpits and groins are tight, your lower back may be deeply arched. To lengthen it, draw your front ribs into your torso, reach your tailbone toward your heels, and slide your heels higher up the wall. Draw the navel toward the spine. Squeeze the outer legs together and roll the thighs in. In Pincha Mayurasana your head should be off the floor; hang it from a spot between your shoulder blades and gaze out into the center of the room.
Stay in the pose 10 to 15 seconds. Gradually work your way up to 1 minute. When you come down, be sure not to sink onto the shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades lifted and broad, and take one foot down at a time with an exhalation. Lift into “dolphin pose” for 30 seconds to a minute. We tend to kick up with the same leg all the time: be sure to alternate your kicking leg, one day right, next day left.
I think I can do two things that will make this possible: (1) focus on my shoulder alignment in dolphin and downward facing dog so that I am pulling energy up with my forearms and biceps and I am pushing down with my shoulders (and continuing to play with the props to make sure I am really pressing down fiercely with my fingers and hugging my shoulders back and down; and (2) using a steady yin practice to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in my arms, wrists and shoulders. I’m going to try and add a couple of daily moves toward Pincha Mayurasana into my daily practice.
L as practice
And work really hard to keep my handstand craziness away from this pose!