Breath or prana is one of the most important aspects of yoga. Whether you can contort…
Many yoga poses are named after animals. This is either because the asana makes you resemble an animal, or the movements of the pose mimic that of an animal. Or perhaps the energy of the pose allows you to embody certain positive traits of different animals. Balancing Bear Pose is a playful seated yoga asana which brings up images of bears who are normally big, powerful, and even terrifying in nature. But also funny and joyful in their own ways.
Just like a bear, this asana strengthens your back muscles and core. It will also lengthen your hamstrings, open up your hips, and improve balance and mobility.
Learn how to practice Balancing Bear Pose in your regular yoga practice to reap its physical and health benefits, and also invite the playful yet strong energy of the bear into your life.
Say it in Sanskrit
Balancing Bear yoga pose is most often associated with Merudandasana in Sanskrit. This directly translates as Spinal Column Pose in English.
The word merudandam means vertebral column. It is an important part of both your physical and energetic anatomy. Also, it is the most prominent bony framework of your body and it is also the central energetic channel where the nadis ida and pingala, and sushumna rise up.
It reminds you to keep your spine long and torso elongated while holding this static balancing pose.
Other names this whole body yoga pose goes by are Urdhva Upavistha Konasana or Upward Seated Straddle Pose.
Benefits and Contraindications of Merudandasana
Yoga poses like Balancing Bear help to remind you to remain joyful and child-like even with challenging asanas that help to strengthen your body.
It’s not only bears who practice this pose. Even human babies like to hold on to their feet and toes and they roll around and are unafraid to topple over. It teaches you how to surrender with grace and a sense of awe at the journey, rather than achieving an Instagram-worthy photo.
Balancing Bear Pose energizes you because it wakes up your core muscles and also lengthens your hamstrings as you maintain your balance.
This intermediate-level seated asana is great for your spine, especially your lower back, because it helps strengthen your back muscles and realigns your spine. This helps to keep your internal organs functioning properly.
As a hip opener, it will increase lower body flexibility and mobility. Consistent practice will help stretch your legs. Especially your thighs, glutes, and adductor muscles.
Merudandasana is a great pose to prepare your body for Navasana, or Boat Pose and other more challenging poses for your core.
On an energetic level, Balancing Bear yoga pose puts pressure on your sacrum and coccyx which activates your root chakra, or Muladhara. This helps you feel more secure and grounded.
Other benefits of this pose include:
- Relief from constipation
- Stimulates your liver and spleen
- Improves digestion
- Tones your abdomen
- Stimulates creative energy
- Improves balance, focus and concentration
Because this pose specifically targets your spine and hips, take precautions if you have any vertebrae or hip issues.
If you have knee pain while practicing Balancing Bear pose, keep them bent or sit on a folded blanket.
Preparatory Poses for Balancing Bear Pose
A strong core and flexible hamstrings will help improve Balancing Bear asana. Here are a few asanas you can practice to prepare your body for Merudandasana:
Lie on your back with your hands underneath your hips with palms downwards, or hold on to the sides of your yoga mat.
Keep your legs close together and point your right toes. Raise your right leg without bending your knee to no higher than 45-degrees. Concentrate on your lifted leg while your left leg remains still.
Hold this pose for five to ten breaths and gently bring your leg back down to your mat on a slow exhale.
Repeat five to ten times on the right leg and repeat for your left leg.
Lie on your back with your palms downwards close to your body. Keep your legs close together and point the toes of both feet.
Inhale and slowly lift up both legs at the same time to no higher than 45-degrees. Keep both legs extended and be mindful not to lift your lower back, your upper body or head off your mat. It may help to press into your palms towards the floor.
Hold your legs at an angle for five to ten breaths and lower slowly on an exhale. Repeat five to ten times.
Sit on your mat and separate your heels to open your legs to about 90 degrees. Keep your legs extended.
Flex your feet and inhale to lengthen your spine. Keep your belly supple and torso long as you exhale and walk your hands forward.
Only lower your body as far as is comfortable for you. This may mean your entire chest may rest on the floor, you may rest on your elbows, or you may place your hands or elbows on yoga blocks or other props to support you.
If you can’t keep your legs straight in this Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold, place some folded yoga blankets or towels to sit on to raise your buttocks.
Balancing Bear Yoga Pose Step-by-Step
- Begin in Baddha Konasana, or Butterfly Pose. Hold onto your big toes with your index and middle fingers.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine and engage your core. Slightly lean back to shift your weight onto your sit bones.
- Lift and straighten your legs while still holding onto your big toes to create a “V” shape.
- Look straight or slightly upwards at a focus point to help keep your balance.
- Keep your inhales and exhales long, deep, and steady as you hold the pose for five to ten breaths.
If you have trouble raising both legs at the same time, you may try a half variation of Balancing Bear by raising just one leg at a time.
Merudandasana Follow-Up Poses
Rest in Baddha Konasana, Sukhasana, or Balasana then follow-up Balancing Bear with Boat Pose to take advantage of the fire you awakened in your core and back.
From Dandasana, or Staff Pose, raise both legs at the same time as you balance on your sit bones. Reach your hands forward as your point your toes.
Keep your spine long and core engaged. If you cannot keep your legs straight, you may hold on to the back of your knees for support.
At the end of your yoga practice, always conclude with a few minutes in Savasana, or Final Resting Pose.
This allows your entire body and mind to relax and let go. You will reap more of the subtler benefits of your yoga practice during this very important asana so always keep it in your routine.
It’s also a good habit to sit for at least three minutes in quiet meditation after Savasana.
Balancing Bear yoga pose, or Merudandasana, is a fun yet challenging yoga asana that will improve your core and back strength while also increasing your flexibility and mobility.
Keep this asana in your regular yoga practice to help you keep the energy or a playful bear inside of you which is both powerful and childlike at the same time.