Developing a Home Practice: How to Sequence a Practice
By "Arm Balance" I am referring to such poses as Bakasana (Crow Pose) or Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose). Up to this point, the poses have focused mainly on the lower part of the body. Here weight is borne on the arms, strengthening the whole upper body and core. These intermediate and advanced poses are extremely activating.
These revolved poses start to take you deeper into the trunk. The twisting action has a two-pronged effect of toning and massaging the internal organs, promoting improved functioning of the gastrointestinal system and blood circulation in the viscera, as well as accessing the deeper muscles of the trunk which will be used in backward extensions and inversions. These can be activating after seated or reclined poses. After standing poses and backward extensions they would be considered balancing.
Powerful and exhilarating, these poses need to be approached with care. Just as with forward extensions, “back bend” is perhaps not the best way to describe them. In none of them are you, in fact, asking the back to bend. More appropriate would be to say that you were asking the back to arch so that each segment of back and spine contributes evenly to the pose. They are generally activating, as they stimulate the nervous system. Restorative backward extensions, where the extension is less and the body is fully supported, can be considered balancing and settling.
Inversions are thought to have the most powerful effect on the body of all the poses. The nectar of immortality is said to be housed in the skull where it drips down steadily to be consumed in the fires of the belly. Being upside down prevents this from happening. The reversal of gravity on the internal organs is thought to be rejuvenating for them. The greatest effect of these poses is that on the nervous system. The attention necessary to invert the body, coupled with the literal change of orientation can profoundly alter your mood and your frame of mind. There are four basic inversions (with many variations): Hand Stand, Forearm Stand, Head Stand and Shoulder Stand. Hand Stand and Forearms Stand can be thought of as preparations for headstand and are extremely activating. Head Stands are thought to be invigorating and heating whereas Shoulder Stands are thought to be calming and cooling. These balancing and settling poses are often best performed towards the end of a practice.