Galavasana is an arm balance which requires quite a bit of upper body strength, core stability, open hips and a pinch of trust. If you have the fist three, but still can’t extend the back leg, it’s probably due to a very old nervous system default setting called the flexion reflex. Basically, due to the fear of falling on your face (which isn’t so irrational), your hip flexor muscles keep contracting instead of extending the back leg hip. Override this default by breathing into your flexors (hip area) and letting them (and your brain) know you’ve got this!
For Galavasana, as well as most arm balances, being able to slowly flow to and from properly aligned, stable Chaturanga, is essential. Chaturanga is where you acquire stability and strength; learn how to squeeze your arms towards the central line and not away from it, how to use your core, transfer your weight and how to use muscular energy instead of momentum. If you’ve got your Chaturanga down, have open hips and you can balance in Bakasana, no reason why you cannot do Galavasana.
In the flow just before the Kramas (steps) below, I will work on the core, hip opening, standing balances, and just before the steps I would suggest to open hip flexors with high Kapotasana (keeping your torso upright). Below are Kramas (steps) or asanas I usually do just before I go into Galavasana.
Step 1 - Ardha Agnisthambasana
I love this half variation of Agnistambhasana as I feel working on one hip and than the other is better for my knees (avoids funky knee rotations), so I almost never do the full Agnisthambasana (fire log or sometimes called double pigeon).
Make sure your foot is flexed and just over the knee. Forward bend as much as your hip and other leg hamstring will allow, don’t compensate from the spine. I’m quite flexible and can go low, but you don’t have to for Galavasana.
Stay for 5 breaths.
Step 2 - Ardha Agnisthambasana B
This is a great variation for those with open hips, but tight hamstrings. As we bend the knee of the other leg, we don’t need to worry about the tight hamstring (that’s not the intention here in this flow), but rather use the space to access more rotation in the front leg.
Keep the foot over your knee, make sure you don’t compensate from your knee and breathe for 5 breaths.
Step 3 - Standing Ardha Agnisthambasana
These asanas flow together nicely, so try to use your balance to get up from seated to standing with your leg still in rotation.
Find your balance for a few breaths and prep for Galavasana by droping your hands down on the floor, shoulder distance apart, and bending your elbows in just like in Chaturanga. Hook your foot as high as you can on the opposite upper arm, and try to place your shin knee, or rather just under your knee on the same spot of your other arm.
Step 4 - Galavasana
* I switched the leg for the photo so you can see the hooked foot, stay on the same leg *
Take your time to prep, and when you feel ready, transfer the weight on your arms, slowly taking the foot off the floor. At first, keep the knee bent, and slowly extend as you inhale.
Play with it, try a few times, and don’t give up. And don’t forget to laugh if you fall ;)