Poses that combine balance, strength and flexibility are the time-management tricks of the yoga world.
After all, why do just a balance pose if we could be getting strength, or stretching, out of it, right?
Here for your yogic consideration, then, is the Shoulder-Opening Crane Pose:
1. Stand and shift your weight to your left leg.
2. Cross your right leg onto your left leg.
3. Fold forward and take your hands to the floor, or, if you can’t make it all the way to the floor, set your hands on yoga blocks instead.
4. Now, wrap your left arm around your right foot, as pictured below, rolling your shoulder in.
5. Stop at the last position if your range of motion on the shoulder doesn’t allow you to go further, or if getting the shoulder/arm around the foot is challenging enough as is… or, for the full position, wrap your right arm around the back and clasp your hands.
Stay, balancing, for 5 slow breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Boldly go where no cranes go (because they have no arms or opposable thumbs) and stretch your back and your shoulders while balancing, gaining stability and strength on the standing leg and stabilizing strength in the opposite hip. And look cool all at once. (Except to your teenage kids.)
Avoid if: You’re too wobbly to hold the balance in step 5. (Instead, keep your hands supported, as in step 3, or one hand supported, as in step 4.) Also, avoid if your hips, knees or ankles hurt in this position. If you can’t get the arm to go under the foot as pictured, it may be as much an issue of range of motion in the hip as in the shoulder; do not force. All of these steps should feel easy and doable without discomfort; if that’s not the case, stop (as with any yoga position), short of the discomfort.
Final thoughts: Because of its relatively low space requirements, you can do Shoulder-Opening Crane on an airplane aisle to stretch and release from long periods of sitting, on the beach before swimming or at restaurants to emphasize a point about your flexibility and balance. Just make sure that if it’s the latter, you demonstrate it before and not after a heavy meal, as you don’t want the restaurant to remember you as “the puking yogi.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: author’s own