This post explores methods for learning the yoga pose vrschikasana (scorpion pose). Vrschikasana is an advanced asana that combines aspects of both inversions and backbends. Eventually this demanding pose is practiced by placing the soles of your feet on the top of your head, whilst balancing on your forearms. It is important that you have a thorough grasp of pincha mayurasana (forearm balance) before attempting vrschikasana. Experience with, and regular practice of the backbends urdhva dhanurasana and dwi pada viparita dandasana is also essential.
The descriptions below outline how each of these poses can be methodically developed in the direction of vrschikasana. Supported versions of these poses are presented in a sequence that helps to isolate key aspects of the final pose. These variations can also be practised as ends in themselves, and will help to make the benefits of vrschikasana accessible to a wider range of experience levels.
In addition to bringing mobility to your spine, vrschiksana and its preparatory stages, also help to improve shoulder flexibility and upper body strength. Like most backbends, they are also great for boosting energy levels and imparting a sense of vigour and vitality.
This article is a companion piece to the video Weekly Advanced Class 74 on yogaselection.com.
Before progressing towards preparatory stages of vrschikasana it is important that you are regularly and confidently practicing pincha mayurasana (forearm balance). Whilst in this pose, ensure that you are able to maintain lift in your shoulders and the back of your pelvis. Ideally you will be able to remain in the pose comfortably for around 45 to 60 seconds without any discomfort in your lower back.
It is common practice to use a belt around your elbows whilst in pincha mayurasana. Whilst a belt can also be used in vrschikasana, ideally you will not feel dependent on it. When eventually the pose is attempted independently in the middle of the room a belt around your elbows can restrict your ability to spontaneously correct over-balancing.
Techniques that are helpful for vrschikasana naturally grow out of a well balanced pincha mayurasana:
- Pressing your inner wrists down, lift your shoulders
- Pressing your wrists down, lift your collar bones up. Lift the space between your collar bones up
- Without dropping your collar bones slide your sternum bone and chin towards the wall
- As you slide your sternum towards the wall, lift the back of your pelvis upwards
- Move your tailbone towards your inner groins and your inner groins towards your tail bone
- Lift your legs away from your spine
These same actions are now taken a step closer towards vrischikasana as you come further away from the wall and introduce a chair. Although this is still a version of pincha mayurasana, the position enables you to develop techniques that will assist you in vrschikasana.
Care must be taken here to maintain comfortable space for your lower back. Maintaining lift through the backs of your shoulders and the whole back of the body will assist with this.
- Position your chair securely up agains a wall
- Hold the front legs of the chair with both hands. Clasp the chair legs with the whole of each hand. Your thumbs will be pointing upwards
- Kick both feet up to the wall
- As soon as your feet come to the wall ensure that the back of your pelvis is lifting upwards
- Press your wrists down
- Turn your outer upper arms away from the wall
- Turn the muscles on the sides of your ribs away from the wall
- Lift your chest upwards
- Slide your heels up the wall
- Lift your big toe bases and inner heels upwards
Chatushpadasana is used as the entry point for this sequence of movements.
- Position a chair securely against a wall
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your calves resting on the seat of the chair
- Position a flat block between the front legs of the chair
- Ensure that your feet are positioned in the centre of the seat of the chair
- Press your heels down and lift your hips up
- With both hands, grip the front legs of the chair
- Tuck your shoulders under and lift your shoulder blades up
- Lift your pelvis and chest up
- Maintaining the lift in your chest and pelvis, release one hand from the chair and take hold of the block
- Reposition the block, sliding it along the floor, so that it comes to rest at the base of your shoulder blades
- Now that the block is positioned next to your shoulder blades, release your hands from the legs of the chair and place them underneath your shoulders
- Ensure that both feet are firmly pressing into the seat of the chair
- Pressing your hands down lift up onto the top of your head
- Keep pressing your hands down as you slide your head along the floor until the back of your head lightly touches the block
- One hand at a time bring your hands to the side edges of the block
- Spread your fingers wide apart
- Press your index finger bases into the block
- Press your outer wrists down into the floor
- Contain your elbows so that they are positioned directly under your shoulders
- Turn your outer upper arms away from the chair
- Turn your outer armpits away from the chair
- Simultaneously lift and spread your shoulder sockets
- Simultaneously lift and spread your shoulder blades
You are now ready to lift up into urdhva dhanurasana.
- Keeping the top of your head to the floor for the moment, bring each hand to the part of the mat where your elbows have just been
- Contain your elbows to shoulder width distance
- Before lifting your head off the floor, press your hands down and ensure that both shoulderbades are spreading outwards and lifting upwards
- Simultaneously press your hands and feet down to lift up to urdhva dhanurasana
- Straighten your elbows and lift the sides of your ribs up
- Lift your chest up
- Contain your knees to shoulder width
- To come down, bend your elbows and lower the back of your head to the floor
- Once your shoulders have returned back to the floor, remove the block out of the way
- Then lie with your back to the floor and your calves resting onto the seat of the chair
You are now ready to work with a version of vrschikasana that is still supported, but much closer to the classical, final position. Your entry position is very similar to the one used for stage 2 except that, rather than grabbing the front legs of the chair with your hands, you instead place your palms flat to the floor.
- Position your chair securely against the wall
- The front legs of the chair can either fit between your thumbs and index fingers, or between your index and middle fingers.
- Try both and determine which keeps your wrists closest to shoulder width distance. the chair leg should come right down to the webbing between the fingers
- Press your wrists down and lift up through your shoulders
- Maintaining this lift in your shoulders, kick both feet up to the wall
- As soon as your feet come to the wall, bend both knees and walk your toes down the wall. Keep walking your toes down the wall until they come to rest onto the top frame of the chair
- Press your wrists down and lift your collar bones upwards
- Maintaining this lift in your collar bones, slide your sternum bone towards your throat, and lift your head upwards towards the seat of the chair
- As your head lifts, ensure that the back of your pelvis is also lifting
- Contain your knees to hip width distance. The tendency will be for them to splay out wider than your hips
This stage follows on directly from the previous stage. Vrschikasana, like many other back bends will benefit from several repetitions rather than one attempt. With each consecutive attempt you may find that you are able to create more space, and progress further into the pose.
- With your toes still positioned on the top of the chair, assess if you are able to develop the pose further
- To come further, one foot at a time bring your toes from the top of the chair onto the seat of the chair
- Once both feet are to the seat of the chair, press your wrists down, and lift your shoulders
- Maintaining this lift in your shoulders, slide your sternum towards the chair, and raise your head towards the seat of the chair
- Walk your toes nearer to the edge of the chair
- Simultaneously your feet are coming towards your head and your head is coming towards your feet
- Now bring your heels down to the seat of the chair
- Contain your knees to hip width, and lift the back of your pelvis up
- To exit from the pose, walk both feet up the wall and lower your legs back down to the floor one at a time
This sequence shows one way that vrschikasana (scorpion pose) can be learnt via poses such as pincha mayurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana and urdhva dhanurasana. The stages presented in this post can be beneficial if you are wishing to eventually practice the full pose in its entirety, or if you are just looking to improve your upper body strength, and gain mobility in your spine and shoulders. Vrschikasana and its preparatory stages are energising poses that help to build confidence, strength and resilience.
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