Shoulder-Pressing Pose (Bhujapidasana)
Shoulder-pressing pose, known as bhujapidasana or dwi hasta bhujasana in Sanskrit, is an arm balance that builds strength in the shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. The pose requires/builds a little more flexibility than, say, the arm balance crow pose (bakasana), since hooking the legs over the shoulders is, first, difficult and, second, stretches the muscle of the shoulders and lower back.
As it strengthens and stretches, shoulder-pressing pose improves physical balance and mental concentration. To hold the pose, the practitioner needs to capture both physical and mental stillness. This stillness allows the practitioner to find peace even in a strenuous position like shoulder-pressing pose.
- Begin by squatting in garland pose (malasana). In garland pose, plant your feet closer than hip distance apart on the mat, squatting with your knees bent and your toes pointing slightly outward.
- Reach your arms between your legs and plant your palms on the mat in front of you. Staying in garland pose, fold forward toward the mat, bending your elbows backwards as you do. As you drop your chest lower, raise your hips higher so that your knees are bent at 90° angles.
- Lift your left palm off the mat and reach your arm backward, between your legs. Tuck your left shoulder as far under your left knee as is possible. Then, reach your left arm around the back of your left shin and plant it outside your left foot.
- Lift your right palm off the mat and reach your arm backward, between your legs. Tuck your right shoulder as far under your right knee as is possible. Then, reach your right arm around the back of your right shin and plant it outside your right foot.
- Spread your fingers wide. Point your middle fingers straight forward, toward the front of the mat. Root into the mat with all five fingers and the palm of each hand. To protect your wrists, avoid carrying weight in the back of your palm.
- Inhale. Straighten your arms slowly, slowly taking your body weight off your legs and onto your arms. As you transfer more weight onto your arms, distribute the weight evenly through your fingers and palms to avoid putting stress on your wrists.
- Exhale and lift your feet off the mat, so that you are balancing only on your arms. Squeeze your inner thighs into your outer arms to keep your hips high.
- Bring your feet together and hook your right foot over your left. Look forward.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Exhale and, with control, lower your feet to the mat. Release your arms and come back into garland pose.
Tips, Photos and Videos for Beginners
Modifications and Props
Curl your fingers to take pressure off the wrists. You should never feel sharp pain in your wrists in yoga. If the pose puts pressure onto your wrist joints, curl your fingers under slightly for a tighter grip on the mat. If you still feel pain, come out of the pose.
Boost your height with blocks. For a higher pose that requires greater coordination, balance on two horizontal blocks. In step one (above), place a block lengthwise against the outside of each of your feet. In steps three and four, plant your palms on the blocks.
Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana). Firefly pose is shoulder-pressing pose with the legs extended straight out in front. This variation presents a new set of challenges to the balance, coordination, and flexibility of the practitioner. It also engages the hamstring muscles that run down the back of each leg. Skip step eight (above). Instead, gradually straighten your right leg, then your left, or, if it’s easier for you, straighten both legs at the same time. Look forward.
Shoulder-pressing pose strengthens the muscles of the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, and abdomen for toned arms and a toned stomach. The pose also compresses the abdominal organs, increasing circulation to the pelvic and stomach region. The legendary yogi Swami Satyananda Saraswati claims that the pose stimulates the pancreas, especially.
Shoulder-pressing pose also stretches the lower back and the shoulders, improving flexibility and alleviating upper back pain and uncomfortably tight shoulders. The pose is as much a forward bend as it is an arm balance. It, therefore, gives many of the more subtle benefits of a forward fold alongside the benefits of an arm balance.
Shoulder-pressing pose is an intermediate level arm balance that improves physical balance and mental concentration. The pose challenges the practitioner’s ability to focus visually and mentally on a gaze point (drishti) while holding a strenuous pose.
Do not attempt shoulder-pressing pose if you:
- have carpal tunnel
- high blood pressure
- have sciatica
- have a slipped disk
- have heart problems
- have a hernia
Shoulder-pressing pose is an intense arm strengthener. Consider countering the pose by pushing back into child’s pose (balasana). Child’s pose stretches the arms and relaxes the entire body, countering the intensity of the pose.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii muscles are the large muscles on the back of the upper arms. They are responsible for extension and retraction of the forearm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk. The triceps are the primary movers in shoulder-pressing pose.
Rotator cuffs. The rotator cuffs are the two groups of muscles and tendons that surrounds each shoulder joint. They are responsible for stabilizing the shoulders. Shoulder-pressing pose externally rotates the arms and, therefore, engages the rotator cuff muscles.
Deltoids. The deltoid muscles form the rounded contour of the outer shoulders. They prevent dislocation of the arm during heavy lifting. Shoulder pose flexes the shoulders forward and, therefore, stretches the posterior deltoids.
Rhomboids. The rhomboid muscles are located in the upper back. They are responsible for retraction of the shoulder blades. In shoulder-pressing pose, the back rounds, opening the shoulder blades and stretching the rhomboids.
Pectorals. The pectoralis major and minor muscles connect the front walls of the chest with the upper arm and shoulders. These muscles are responsible for drawing the arms towards the body. They help support the weight of your body in shoulder-pressing pose.
Serratus anterior. The serratus anterior muscles are located on the sides of the chest, just below the armpits. They rotate the scapula and allow a person to lift the arms above the chest. In shoulder-pressing pose, they work to broaden the scapulas.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation of the spine. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles is closely linked with posture. Shoulder-pressing pose gently stretches the lower back muscles of the erector spinae.
Abdominals. The abdominal muscles are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. In shoulder-pressing pose, the transverse abdominus and rectus abdominus work to keep the hips lifted.
Quadratus lumborum. The quadratus lumborum is located deep in the abdominal wall. When it is short and weak, the muscle is often attributed to lower back pain. Bending forward in shoulder-pressing pose stretches the quadratus lumborum.
Gluteals. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The gluteal muscles are some of the body’s strongest and are the primary movers of the hips and thighs. Shoulder-pressing pose stretches the gluteus medius and the related abductor muscle, the tensor fascia latae.
Pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles run between your legs, from the pubic bone to the base of the spine. They support the bladder, rectum, and (in women) the vagina and uterus. Keeping the hips lifted in shoulder-pressing pose also tones the pelvic floor.
Hip flexors. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting in a chair for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and bend over. shoulder-pressing pose opens the hips and lengthens the hip flexor muscles.
Hip adductors. The adductor muscles run along the inner thighs. These muscles are responsible for leg movement away from the center of the body as, for example, during a star jump or split. In shoulder-pressing pose, the thighs press against the outside of the upper arms to work the adductor muscles.
Hip rotators. The hip rotator, or lateral rotator, muscle group includes six small muscles in the hip that control the external rotation of the legs. Short hip rotator muscles contribute to poor pelvic alignment. In shoulder-pressing pose, both legs are externally rotated. This rotation stretches the hip rotators to align the pelvis and improve range of motion for kicks, jumps, and splits.