One of the more challenging arm balances is Eka Pada Koudinyasana I, otherwise known as Flying Splits or One-Footed Sage Pose.
In Sanskrit, eka means one, pada means foot, and Kaundinya was a sage of the Buddha and a scholar of the Vedas in ancient India.
Yogi’s Guide to 30 Common Sanskrit Words
Eka Pada Koundinyasana is part of the low-flying arm balance family. Poses like Bakasana (Crow) and Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow) are good poses to practice in preparation for bigger arm balances like Flying Splits or Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (otherwise known as Hurdler’s Pose).
Check out Flow & Fly Low, my latest online yoga class with YA Classes, to access all these arm balance poses and a few challenging variations
First – What Is the Difference Between Eka Pada Koundinyasana I and II?
Many yoga students ask what the difference is between Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (EPK I) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (EPK II). While the upper body alignment is very similar in both poses, Eka Pada Koundinyasana I starts from Side Crow and therefore the bottom leg is twisted across the body.
In Eka Pada Koundinyasana II, one leg is straight forward and one leg is straight back, resembling a hurdler’s leap mid-jump, hence the common name Hurdler’s Pose.
For this yoga pose tutorial, we are focusing on Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (EPK I). If you are ready to try EPK 1 for yourself, grab your yoga mat and let’s fly!
Practice These 5 Yoga Poses to Prepare Your Body for Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (EPK I):
Before you jump into your first yoga pose . . . It’s important to begin your yoga practice with a few rounds of Sun Salutations. I recommend you practice 3-5 full rounds of Surya Namaskar A to get your body warm and ready to take flight!
Learn Surya Namaskar A and B: Sun Salutation Flow Photo Tutorial
Now you’re ready! Let’s jump in!
1. Supine Crunch
Enhancement: Advance this crunch by extending both legs straight
Let’s try it:
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your hands interlaced behind your head
- Inhale to lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and exhale to twist your torso to one side
- Cross your left elbow towards your right thigh, extend your left leg and hover it off the ground
- Repeat the same actions on the other side and continue moving from side to side with your breath
2. 4-Limbed Staff Pose
Sanskrit: Chaturanga Dandasana
Modification: Drop your knees to the mat, but keep your core engaged
Let’s try it:
- From Plank Pose, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and lower down slowly and with control
- Hug your elbows into your side body
- Maintain the staff-like shape in your body with your legs straight and your abdomen engaged
- Lower your body parallel to the earth and align the heads of your shoulders with your elbows
- Let’s do 3 rounds of Chaturanga push-ups to build heat, linking breath to movement (inhale, press up to Plank, exhale lower through Chaturanga)
Follow These 5 Tips to Practice Chaturanga Correctly
3. Prayer Twist
Sanskrit: Parivrtta Utkatasana
Enhancement: From the prayer position, extend your arms out vertically like wings
Let’s try it:
- Stand with your feet together, bend your knees and come into Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
- Bring your hands to prayer at heart center (Anjali Mudra), and then twist your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh
- As you inhale, extend your spine long and as you exhale, twist deeper into your prayer twist
- Hold for 3-5 breaths, and then repeat on the left side
4. Side Crow
Sanskrit: Parsva Bakasana
Enhancement: Extend one or both legs straight
Let’s try it:
- From your prayer twist in Chair Pose, bend your knees and plant your palms shoulder-distance apart
- Hug your elbows in towards your side body to create ‘Chaturanga arms’ as you make a shelf with your bottom tricep
- Transfer the weight from your feet into your hands and gently lift your feet off the ground
- Engage your Mula Bandha (pelvic floor) and core
- Hold for 3-5 breaths and then repeat on side 2
Learn How to Master Crow Pose With This Step-By-Step Yoga Tutorial
5. Twisty IT Band Stretch
Modification: Reclined Cow’s Face Pose (Supta Gomukhasana)
Let’s try it:
- Start from Wide-Leg Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) with both feet on the mat (so you’re long ways)
- Turn onto the outer blades of your feet and walk your hands towards the top of your mat, then towards the opposite long side of the mat
- Squeeze your inner thighs together as you equally scissor your legs apart from one another, staying on the outer blades of your feet
- Soften your knees and/or step your feet closer together as needed to accommodate this major outer hip/IT Band stretch
- Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale soften into the stretch. Repeat on the left
You’re Ready for EPK1!
Sanskrit: Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
Modification: Option to try the same pose with the front knee bent or both knees bent.
Let’s try it:
- From Side Crow, extend the top leg straight towards the front and the bottom leg straight back
- Scissor the legs apart from each other and press through the balls of both feet to add extension
- Maintain the parallel frame of your shoulders as you mimic Chaturanga in your arms. Avoid any dip of the shoulders so you don’t overload the shoulder joint
- Hold for 3-5 breaths and then repeat on the other side
You Just Practiced Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
To conclude the practice, take a wrist release like Hands to Foot Pose (Pada Hastasana). It’s always important to warm up and stretch your wrists before and after any arm balance practice.
Learn How to Ease Wrist Pain and Prevent Injury In Your Yoga Practice (Video)
When you’re done, lay down and heel-toe your feet mat-distance apart, allowing your knees to relax into the center and rest against each other.
Rest here for a few breaths and allow the body and breath to settle before you enjoy your final savasana.
Final pro tip: For any arm balance, it’s important to engage your bandhas (or energetic locks) to help you find and maintain your balance and control.
How to Engage Your Bandhas and Deepen Your Yoga Practice
Whether you nailed your Eka Pada Koundinyasana I or just got one toe off the ground today, congratulate yourself on showing up and giving it your best. Remember that yoga is a practice, so keep showing up and you’ll continue to deepen your practice.
Take This Arm Balance Flow With Denelle!
With Denelle Numis
28-minutes Class | Intermediate
Have questions about this arm balance yoga pose tutorial? Want to share your experience or offer tips that you’ve found work for you? Please share in the comments below – we love hearing from you!