Sadie also gave us really strong, sensible instruction in Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I. To get into Side Crow, she had us begin from Paravritta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair) position, as most instructors would. However, after bending the elbows and before placing the knee on the upper arm, Sadie had us walk over slightly towards the arm we would be balancing on. This, she explained, gave us the twist you need in Side Crow. When I first began practicing Side Crow, I had used both elbows to support me. Sadie believes this is not so great for the shoulders, because they cannot stay aligned when you push both elbows under your body. Therefore, when she had us walk over to the one side, we would only support our Side Crow with the one arm on the side we were twisting to. The other elbow is free and this way you can maintain the Chaturanga shape of the arms (with a ninety degree angle). The same principles apply to Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, of course, as it is very similar to Side Crow. I had never been taught Side Crow in that manner before.
I always imagined that eventually one would work towards practicing Side Crow with just the one arm supporting you. I have moved to that place in my own practice, but haven't encouraged it in my instruction enough. I thought of the second arm as like a training wheel, something that was there for support, but eventually you could take off when you learned the technique. I hadn't imagined it really hurting you much though, because the elbows could still stack over the wrists practicing that way. However, using both elbows to support you seems to distort the flatness of the upper back, the chest, and the shoulder.
(Side Crow with both elbows for support)
Incorrect, according to Sadie's instruction:
(Side Crow with only one elbow for support)Correct, according to Sadie's instruction:
After giving this subject more thought, however, I can think of an arm balance in which one deliberately wedges the elbows underneath the body. Peacock (Mayurasana). If nestling the elbows under the body were that detrimental, why is the alignment of Peacock instructed the way it is, even as per Yoga Journal? I imagine the placement of the hands (orienting the fingers backwards in Peacock as opposed to straight forward in Side Crow) affects the structure of the shoulders. Thoughts...?