With long limbs and open hips, Shoulder-Pressing Pose (Bhujapidasana) is just one of those poses that my body happens to be made for, so much so that I remember sitting on my arms in Two Hands and Arms Pose (Dwi Hasta Bhujasana) as a kid for fun.
I would simply walk my hands through my legs, bend my elbows back, rest my butt on my arms and lift my feet.
I also don’t have a ton of upper body strength and very few arm balances come easy to me—except for poses like Shoulder-Pressing and Firefly (Tittibhasana) where I can use the squeeze of my upper inner thighs around my outer arms to press up into.
And the extra lock of the ankles in Bhujapidasana makes squeezing the legs even better. That said, I make the pose look easy when it really needs a ton of warming up, a lot external hip and shoulder opening, and low back and glute stretching. Not to mention inner thigh and core strength.
But, as I like to remind my students, the benefit is in the process of preparing for the more challenging poses and the trying, not the execution. Here are three poses to prepare for liftoff in Shoulder-Pressing Pose.
1. Yogic Squat or Garland Pose (Malasana)
Widen your feet apart and turn your toes out wider than your heels. Bend your knees deeply and squat down, keeping your butt off the floor. If your heels don’t release down to the floor, try widening your feet even further apart, or place a rolled blanket or towel underneath your heels.
Separate your inner thighs and lean forward, snuggling your torso between your thighs. Bring your hands together in prayer, with your elbows inside your knees. Press your elbows out into your knees and simultaneously squeeze your knees back into your elbows.
As you squeeze your inner thighs, lift up through you pelvic floor and core.
2. Seated Baby Cradle Pose
Sit with your left knee on the floor and your right foot flat on the mat in front of you. Reach your right arm down the inside of your right leg and grab hold of the outer edge of your right foot.
Lean on to your left hand for support as you lift your right foot off the floor with your right hand, pulling your knee back along side your right ribs. Inhale and sit up tall; exhale and take the shin across your body, opening your right knee out to the side and bringing your heel closer to your chest.
Lift your left arm up and bring the bottom of your right foot into the crook of your left elbow. If the foot will stay in the elbow, free your right hand and wrap your right arm around your leg, placing the knee into the crook of your right elbow, and clasping your left hand.*
Inhale, press down into both sitting bones and lengthen up through your spine.
*If you’re having difficulty placing the top shin into the crooks of your elbows for Baby Cradle, simply slide both hands under your right calf, holding your right shinbone up like a tray.
3. Elephant’s Trunk Pose (Eka Hasta Bhujasana)
Start in the same seated position above, then reach down and grip your outer right foot with your right hand. Lean on to your left hand and lift your right foot up, pulling your right knee back alongside your right ribs.
Inhale, press down through your bottom left thigh and lengthen up through your spine. Lift your left arm up and bring your left hand to your right heel. Then, release your right hand to your right calf, with your right shoulder and arm inside your right leg.
Press your right knee further back with both hands and swing the leg higher up and over your right shoulder (as though you were throwing a purse over your shoulder). Clamp your calf down onto your arm as best you can and release both hands to the floor alongside your hips.
Straighten the bottom leg and flex both feet strongly. Press down into your palms and draw your straight bottom leg back as you lift your hips and heel up.
If you’ve made it to Elephant’s Trunk, you’re half way to Bhujapidasana. And if not, keep practicing, opening your hips, squeezing your thighs and pressing down through the palms to lift up—one day it will all come. Remember: the benefit is in the trying.