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Your Guide to a Powerful Flying Sage Yoga Pose

Flying Sage yoga pose, or  Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A,’ is an advanced arm balance.

There are two ways to come into the Flying Sage yoga pose: from a side crow or a low lunge.

The entry point from a low lunge is more accessible for most bodies.

Flying Sage yoga pose is an arm balance, twist, and hip opener! 

This article outlines the benefits of the pose, tips for getting into it, and classes and a progressive yoga series to aid your practice as you develop more confidence and strength!

What you will learn in the breakdown:

  • The difference between Flying Sage Pose and Side Crow.
  • The 2 ways to come into Flying Sage Pose are from side crow or a low lunge pose. 
  • Modifications for practitioners of all levels. 
  • The muscles to warm up, strengthen, stretch, and release. 
  • Tips for arm balancing. 
  • Preparatory poses for Flying Sage Pose. 
  • How to assess your students – for yoga teachers teaching this posture. 
  • Kramas (options) as you progress from Side Crow into Flying Sage. 
  • The difference between men’s and women’s bodies and how to adjust when arm balancing. 
  • Ways to take the weight out of the wrists in arm balancing.
Body Parts Targeted – Wrists, chest, side waist, core, outer hips and inner thighs. 
Level – Advanced
Props – 1 block
Benefits – Stretches the back and side body (including the hips), strengthens the front body, core, obliques, inner thighs, and mental focus!
Prep Poses – Halfmoon, pyramid, half splits, twists.

Take the class with Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A’ featured – Face of Challenge Vinyasa Yoga. 

(More) classes to practice your flying sage/splits:

From the Flying Sage Yoga Pose Breakdown:

Review the lecture with Clara Roberts-Oss

Welcome to the breakdown of Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A,’ one-legged flying sage pose.

There are a couple of ways of coming into it. The way that we went into it was from side crow.

People get these two poses mixed up. Side crow is the arm balance where the legs are together, and the legs are going out to the side.

Then, we have Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A,’ one-legged sage pose. You can start in a side crow in this variation, and the top leg goes out behind you. The second way is from lunge pose, and lunge is a lot easier way to come into it.

What Do We Need to Do to Prepare for Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

To prepare the body for Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A,’ we need to warm up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the wrists and strengthen the arms, core, and chest.

We need to open up the hamstrings and outer hip and strengthen the inner thighs. 

With all arm balances, you generally need to strengthen the front body and open up either the back or the side body depending on the pose, as many arm balances are twists, so that involves hip opening. 

What Are the Steps to Get Into Flying Sage Yoga Pose? 

Okay, so from the side crow, I will walk you through all the kramas slowly and then show you a couple of alternatives you can do. 

So from toe stand, hands come into prayer in front of the heart. I always start with a regular crow pose; you want to crow because that’s the most fundamental arm balance.

And you’re generally, I’m looking around the room to see whether or not people can do crow because if crow pose is not accessible, then definitely, side crow will be a lot harder, and Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A’ will be even more challenging.

So gauging that, and then also prepping the body to get ready for arm balances, starting with an arm balance that is symmetrical, meaning that the left and the right side are doing the same thing, that’s crow pose, and then moving towards the asymmetry with side crow or Eka Pada Koundinyasana ‘A.’ 

So, from the toe stand, I would bring my hands in prayer and take my hips to my heels. Then, I would take a twist by bringing my left elbow to the outside of my right knee, and then the second krama (option) would be left hand down, right arm up towards the sky.

How Do You Place the Hands for Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

From the open-arm twist to moving into the side crow, there are two options for hand placements. The first option is that all ten fingers reach directly out towards the right, meaning the long edge of the mat. And then, from there, you’d be working the outer right hip towards the right upper arm.

The second option is to have all ten fingers reaching towards the front of your mat, meaning the short edge of your mat, and you’d be balancing your upper right thigh on just your left arm.  Both of them are great. It depends on a couple of things. So, start with both hands to the short edge of your mat to rest the upper thigh on both arms. 

The reason to rest the hips on the upper arm is that for women, the center of gravity is their pelvis, and men’s center of gravity is their chest. So, for women, it may be a lot easier and more accessible to support the pelvis on the upper arms.

The outer hip twist is also less deep when the hips are resting on the upper arms. 

Both feet go out toward the front of your mat for a full side crow. I bend my knees, bring the feet back down, and lift the hips. So that’s option one for side crow. I will walk us through the side crow and then the second option, all ten fingers reaching out toward the front of your mat.

Same idea: lift your hips and bend your elbows, but you’re just going to rest your right upper thigh on your left upper arm. You want to get your arm towards the middle of your upper thigh to balance.

And then take your hands nice and wide out to the left and the right. Lift the chest, left toes lift, right toes lift. You’ll see how it goes. Then, you can explore extending the legs from there. I don’t like doing it that way. My muscles around my IT band are tight. So I find when my upper arm is just resting on there, it makes me want to vomit. So, there’s an acupressure point that doesn’t work for me. So, I’d like to do it with both arms to take the pressure out of my outer thigh. 

Coming into the Eka Pada Koundinyasana variation, my palms come down, and the outer left thigh rests on the upper arms of both my arms. Both feet lift. Extend the legs out.  So, put them together, open the top leg, take it out behind you, and then reach through your toes. 

How Do I Get into Flying Sage Yoga Pose From a Low Lunge?

The less challenging way is from the lunge pose. We didn’t do it this way, but I will show you. You want a shorter stance from a low lunge, meaning your feet are closer to the middle of your mat.

Same idea: open the arms; in this variation, my right arm is down, and my left arm is up. The left arm comes down. You want to lean into this pose. So, hands don’t come directly underneath you. They walk out towards the left. I’m going to walk my hands out towards the left. Lift my back knee off the ground. Take my outer left hip to my left upper arm. Shift the weight forward. Lift right toes. Lift left toes. And then extend the legs out from there. And look how close my head is to the ground. 

What Do I Need to Know About Arm Balancing for Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

Most arm balancing has more to do with weight distribution.

I’m a lot more leg than I am torso. So, to lift my big legs towards the sky, I’ve got to bring my torso down. And so we’re all proportioned differently. Don’t worry about how high or low your head is. Just explore extending and finding a fulcrum point. This means a balance point that lets both your legs lift and your head off the ground. Now, a couple of alternatives for people who are nervous is to put your head down on the ground.  And so I’ll come back and do it this way.  Bending the elbows, look towards the front of your mat.

I’m on the right side, and I’m going to bring my head down to the ground. Boom. And what’s cool is when you bring your head down, your feet naturally lift.  Most of the weight is in my hands, not in my head. And I’m pressing my head down so that my neck is active; it’s not passive.

From there, you can explore extending your legs away from each other. Whee! Then, you’ll slowly bend both your knees, bring your feet down to the ground, and lift your head. 

Any Other Quick Tips for Flying Sage Yoga Pose? 

With all arm balances, we want to engage hasta bandha.

Hasta is hand; bandha is a seal. Think of your hands like little suction cups. 

You want to suck them in. Right, so that you’re drawing up out of your wrist joints. I’m trying to pull up energetically.

When I do that, tendons and ligaments engage and shorten a bit more, which will help take the weight out of the wrists.

The more flexion you have in your wrists, the more bend you have; think of the elbow going towards your fingertips. The less stable it is on your wrists, the more pressure there is on them.

And wrist joints are not meant to bear weight. The reason we have that joint is to be able to move the hands forward and backward. So, claw the mat with your finger pads and check that you’re lifting up and out of the wrist joints.

Any Advice for Teachers Who Want to Teach Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

So, for those of us who are teachers, or if you’re doing this at home practice, I recommend skipping it if you’re starting to feel tired before you come to this peak pose.

And so if I were teaching a class and I saw in the last wave that many people were in child’s pose, I may not teach this peak pose. And the reason is that we’re more likely to be sloppy if tired. And then when we’re sloppy, we’re more likely to, um, to injure. Yeah, and specifically, the wrist joints are the ones that get it.

So, be mindful of that. Generally, I don’t teach chaturanga when teaching this kind of practice. I did other ways of strengthening and activating the core and strengthening the biceps without doing chaturanga. I wanted to give the wrists a break so that you would still feel strong enough to do it by the time we got to the arm balance. 

Give yourself and your students a lot of permission to take or leave the arm balance.  

What Poses Help to Prepare the Body for Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

The last little part that I wanted to go into was poses that would go before to prep for this pose. You want to think of the pose in different shapes. Halfmoon, pyramid, half splits with a twist; these all include the same muscles you use in Eka Pada Koundinyasana. 

I countered these poses and the peak pose by expressing the outer hips and thighs. We opened the groin and inner thighs.

Then, we ended with a symmetrical pose with a seated bound angle or a wide-legged forward fold. You could also do a supported variation with a wide-legged viparita karani with your legs up the wall. 

What Are Some of the Counterposes to Flying Sage Yoga Pose?

Then we laid down on our bellies and did a locust pose with hands interlaced behind to open up the front body after strengthening.  

The key takeaway is to be mindful of what’s going on in the wrists in terms of getting too tired or fatigued. 

Think of opening the body in a way that resembles the shape of the peak pose, specifically with this one: opening up the outer thighs, hamstrings, and deep twisting. Then, strengthen core activation and the biceps. 

Seraphina Dawn

Seraphina has a BA in Literature from Simone Fraser University and participated in the Creative Writing Program at UC Berkeley. She is a Kundalini teacher, writer, and poet. She admires Clarice Lispector’s prose, Octavia Butler’s fiction, and Simone Weil's philosophy. Seraphina currently lives in Istanbul. 

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