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Flow into Yoga: Balancing Stick

Balancing Stick

Lucky number seven in Bikram is Balancing Stick or Tuladandasana, which proves to be one of the most challenging poses in the standing series. It sounds easy to balance on one leg, but there is much more involved in this posture that standing on one leg. It perfects control, balance and precision of movement by improving the physical, psychological, and mental powers, fully exemplifying the mind/body connection of the Bikram series.  

It is important to take your time in getting into Balancing Stick because as they say, the setup determines the outcome. It is vital to enter the pose with good alignment and then hold it in stillness for 10 seconds. Imagine the ultimate workout lasting only 10 seconds?!  

1. Start by lifting your arms above your head and pointing them towards the ceiling. Your arm muscles should be kept tight and elbows locked.  Interlock your fingers, keeping your index fingers pointed.

2. Arch your lower back slightly, while pushing your hips forward.

3. Take a big step forward with your right leg, immediately locking your knee.

4. Using your left leg as a pivot point, lower your upper body forward while simultaneously lifting up your left leg. Do not tuck your chin to your chest; keep your face parallel with the floor. This movement must be performed very quickly as you want the blood to come rushing to your head.

5. Your left leg, upper body and arms should all form a straight line and remain 100% locked throughout the entire duration of the posture.  If someone were to look at you from the side, you would look like the perfect letter T, not a broken umbrella.

6. Begin to stretch your body in two opposite directions: pull back with your left leg and push forward with your torso and arms.  This is the “human tug-of-war” Bikram speaks of: the equal and opposing forces stretching forward and extending back. 

7. Contract your core muscles.  Keep your hips in line from the side.  And hold.

8. In the midst of all this stillness, you must remember to breathe and breathe deeply.  Use the exhale to extend your torso and leg away from your core.

9. Repeat on opposite side.

Balancing Stick truly is the ultimate workout, both body and mind. This posture trains us to align our bodies using gravity, building upper-body strength, opening the shoulder joints and toning the muscles in the shoulders, upper arms and spine. Benefits are not limited to the upper body however; hip flexibility improves, the thigh muscles tone, the hamstrings loosen, the sciatic nerve stretches and the functioning of the heart improves. And, while the physical body might look like a statue on the outside, nothing stays still on the inside. The forward tilt of your torso sends high-speed blood pouring into the heart, cleaning out the veins and all the arteries and strengthening the heart muscle. The same rejuvenating flood rushes into the brain as well, sharpening your powers of concentration. Your lungs are stretched and your spine is extended, helping to improve poor posture. During Balancing Stick you must continuously look internally and concentrate on all elements of the posture. Focusing inwards is not easy when you are trying to keep your body completely still, but it will lead to improved concentration, a more calm and balanced mind and greater overall awareness.  

Lyndsey Hemmesch is an instructor at Bikram Yoga Burr Ridge in Burr Ridge.

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