Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
Many yoga poses are named after animals like the bear pose. That’s the case because the pose itself either makes your body resemble an animal or because the movements of the pose mimic those of an animal. What’s also possible, is that the energy of a pose allows you to embody a particular animal’s positive traits.
Balancing Bear Pose is a playful seated yoga asana that brings images of bears to mind which are commonly known as big, powerful, and even terrifying animals in nature. They are, however, also funny and joyful in their own way.
Just like a bear, this asana helps strengthen your back muscles and core. It’ll also help lengthen your hamstrings, open up your hips, and improve your balance and mobility.
Adding the Balancing Bear Pose to your regular yoga practice will allow you to reap its many physical and health benefits while at the same time inviting the playful yet strong energy of the bear into your life.
Say it in Sanskrit
Balancing Bear yoga pose is most often associated with the word Merudandasana in Sanskrit, which directly translates as “Spinal Column Pose”.
The word merudandam means vertebral column. It’s an important part of the physical and energetic anatomy. It’s the most prominent bony framework of your body and is also the central energetic channel through which the nadis ida, pingala and sushumna rise up.
Remember to keep your spine long and torso elongated while holding this static balancing pose.
This whole-body yoga pose also goes by the name Urdhva Upavistha Konasana, or Upward Seated Straddle Pose.
Benefits and Contraindications of Merudandasana
Yoga poses like Balancing Bear can help remind you to remain joyful and child-like even when you’re practicing challenging asanas that strengthen your body.
Not only bears who practice this pose though. Even human babies like to hold on to their feet and toes and roll around without showing any fear of toppling over. This pose teaches you how to surrender gracefully and feel a sense of awe about the journey you’re making, rather than achieving an Instagram-worthy photo.
Balancing Bear Pose is energizing as it wakes up your core muscles and lengthens your hamstrings while you try to maintain your balance.
This intermediate-level seated asana is great for your spine, especially your lower back. In addition to strengthening your back muscles and realigning your spine, this asana is also beneficial for the proper functioning of you internal organs.
As a hip opener, it’ll help increase your lower body flexibility and mobility. Consistent practice will help stretch your legs, especially your thighs, glutes, and adductor muscles.
Merudandasana is a great pose for preparing your body for Navasana, or Boat Pose, and other poses that are more challenging for your core.
On an energetic level, Balancing Bear yoga pose will activate your root chakra, or Muladhara, by putting pressure on your sacrum and tailbone. This will help you feel more secure and grounded.
Other benefits of this pose include:
- Relief from constipation
- Stimulation of the liver and spleen
- Improved digestion
- Toned abdomen
- Stimulation of creative energy
- Improved balance, focus and concentration
Because this pose specifically targets your spine and hips, make sure to take the necessary precautions if you have any vertebrae or hip issues.
If you experience knee pain while practicing Balancing Bear pose, either keep them bent or sit on a folded blanket.
Preparatory Poses for Balancing Bear Pose
A strong core and flexible hamstrings will help you improve your 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 and your palms either facing downwards or holding 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 a 45-degree angle. Concentrate on your lifted leg while your left leg remains still.
Hold this pose for five to ten breaths and then gently bring your leg back down to your mat on a slow exhale.
Repeat five to ten times with your right leg before moving over to your left leg.
Lie on your back with your hands close to your body and your palms facing downwards. 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 a 45-degree angle. Keep both legs extended and be mindful not to lift your lower back, upper body or head off your mat. It may help to press into your palms and down towards the floor.
Hold your legs at the chosen angle for five to ten breaths and then slowly lower them on an exhale. Repeat five to ten times.
Sit on your mat and open your legs to about a 90-degree angle. 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 out in front of you.
Only lower your body as far as is comfortable for you. This may mean that your entire chest rests on the floor, that you rest on your elbows, or that you support yourself by placing your hands or elbows on yoga blocks or other props.
If you can’t keep your legs straight in this Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold, place some folded yoga blankets or towels beneath you to sit on and raise your buttocks.
Balancing Bear Yoga Pose Step-by-Step
- Begin in Baddha Konasana, or Butterfly Pose. Hold on to 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.
- Keep holding onto your big toes while you lift and straighten your legs to create a “V” shape.
- To help keep your balance, look straight out in front of you or slightly upwards at a focal point.
- 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 want to 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 and 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 you 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 will allow your entire body and mind to relax and let go. Always remember to keep this very important asana in your routine, as it’ll help you reap more of the subtler benefits of your yoga practice.
Sitting for at least three minutes in quiet meditation after Savasana is also a good habit you may want to adopt.
Balancing Bear yoga pose, or Merudandasana, is a fun yet challenging yoga asana that’ll improve your core and back strength while at the same time increasing your flexibility and mobility.
Add this asana to your regular yoga practice as it’ll help you maintain the powerful and childlike energy of a playful bear inside of you.