One of my favorite asanas, named after a sage Vishvamitra, is one of the more advanced arm balances. Fiery and feisty, just as the sage named after, it takes strength as well as flexibility. A bit of courage, belief and a pinch of not taking it too seriously. Courage because it opens you up; belief because you may fall; and not taking it seriously – so you can laugh when you do fall (usually on your behind;), pick yourself up and try again:).
But, in order to do it gracefully you need good preparation. So, how do we prepare?
First, let’s look at Vishvamittrasana. It’s an asymmetrical arm balance, a hip opener and a side stretch. You need open hamstrings, as well as a strong core, so some forward bends should also be incorporated in the sequence, as well as a few asanas that awaken the core.
I build a whole sequence or a theme around an advanced asana like Vishvamitrasana. So, this would be a full on hip opening class. I use different Namaskars for different classes, so for a hip opening class I would either use a Progressive Namaskar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp–cWI019s) or Hip opening Namaskar with side lunges and WII variations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-Bk5YonsVM).
I will usually put Vishvamitrasana at the end of a standing sequence and incorporate within the standing sequence asanas that prepare for the peak asana. In this case I would start the standing sequence with something to wake up the core. Plank and side plank variations are a good choice here. Continue with hamstring and psoas openings (Low lunge, high lunge, Ardha hanumanasana or Hanumanasana , standing Hanumanasana etc.), followed by a hip opening, side stretching sequence from WII family like Baddha Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Bound standing Vishvamittrasana etc. like shown on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6doz3lC_44g
I use WII to enter Vishvamittrasana. Start as though you will bind Parsvakonasana, so slide your shoulder under your knee, but try to stay in alignment (don’t push your butt out). The first krama is right here. See if you can place your hand on the outside of your foot and extend your arm up. Stay here or continue. For next step or krama, try to lift your foot off the floor keeping your knee bent and see if you can hold the outside of your foot and perhaps stay here. If you are open enough, see if you can extend that arm and leg above your head. Do this on an inhale. Tip: push the back foot in the floor, keep that back leg strong and straight – that is your base you’re building upon, so don’t forget about the back leg and focus just on the front. Same goes for the arm that is on the floor. Keep it grounded, extended and strong. When extending, push that extended leg onto the base arm, as well as arm against the leg.
This is just one of the ways you can build towards Vishvamitrasana. Another way would be to build it up, from the floor down, but that’s for another blog post.
And remember, when attempting to master an asana, this is best done in a class environment with a teachers support.