Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 is definitely a challenging pose, but like most things in yoga with a little persistence brewed with a bounty of patience and a great deal of laughter this pose is totally do-able. Below I have laid out the steps which I have found easiest for entering the pose.
Some side notes: make sure you have a strong chaturanga foundation (stay tuned for more chaturanga tutorials) and if anything feel comfortable in side crow. Before entering the pose warm up your wrists, utilize twists poses (any twisting motion that involves twisting from you cervical and thoracic spine) and most of all trust your own strength. You can do this.
The benefits of this pose: strengthening your shoulders, core and stretching & strengthening hamstrings. This is also a great pose to learn what if feels like to distribute your weight properly.
1. Starting Tadasana at the top of your mat. Inhale into Utkatasana (chair pose). Bring your hands to heart center in Anjali Mudra (prayer position). Exhale hooking your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Check in with your alignment cues – make sure your knees are in line (sit deeper if need be). The idea here is to get your thumbs toward your heart twisting from your upper spinal column (thoracic and cervical) while your lumbar spine stays center.
2. Open up your arms to fly. Think opening your arms to give somebody a huge hug. Your arms are perpendicular to the mat. Maintain the twist. Take two rounds of breath hear, energetically pressing through your fingertips.
3. Drop your hands toward the mat (on the right side of the body), shoulder distance apart, wrist in line with elbows, moving your bum down towards the mat still in the twist. Think chaturanga arms at your side - body still front facing.
4. Bending at your elbows begin to distribute the weight toward your fingertips, creating a shelf for your upper right thigh on your left arm. Try to shift your weight forward rather than down. Don’t be afraid to fall. This is how you learn to catch your weight and yourself. Move slow.
5. You’re now all lined up for Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana). Lift your hips above the shelf you’ve created with arms. Lengthening through your spine extending your sternum forward. Shift your weight forward (not down) until your toes become light and you can lift your toes off the mat. This might be it for you, for a while. Find your strength and your balance here.
6. Exhale to straighten your legs. Flexing your feet here will help you find balance. Utilizing the stability of the outer hip and the strength of the inner thigh begin peel your top leg off your bottom pressing your femur toward the back wall. Keep the shoulders strong - try not to collapse your upper body toward the mat, its ok to relax your neck as long as your maintaining that stability in your shoulders.
Wahoo! You made it.
Practice, practice, practice.
Tips to stay safe: Don’t try to lean on both arms, for the sake of balance. Your chest and shoulders will collapse causing unnecessary weight distribution on that glenohumeral joint. Engaging your core and actively pushing forward rather than down will help to keep the integrity of this pose. Notice in the picture that while my head is naturally relaxed my chest is above/ in line with my shoulders and my shoulders have not lost their integrity.