White: Soaring to new heights in crow poseWritten by Jennifer S. White | | email@example.com
Bakasana, Sanskrit for either “crane” or “crow” pose, is the first arm balance that many yogis attempt. Typically, crow pose is thought of as the bent-arm rendition and crane the version with straight arms. This bent-arm posture is thought to be easier for beginners.
Whenever I teach arm balances and demonstrate a pose, one of the most common things I hear from students is, “I could never do that. I don’t have the arm strength.” This is a misunderstanding.
More than powerful arms, bakasana requires a strong core and open hips. Arm balances frequently sort out the experienced yogi from the inexperienced with the necessity of both strength and flexibility in one body.
Practicing arm balances encourages the yogi to add core-strengthening and hip-opening postures. Hardly anyone enjoys doing core work and stretching tight hips is uncomfortable on many levels, so bringing both into a regular yoga practice requires discipline. Being able to fly in bakasana, however, is a well worth-it reward.
To begin, you’ll need one yoga block.
Place your block on your yoga mat with the broad, stable side down, and perch on the balls of your feet on top of it. Your feet touch as you squat low.
Keep your feet together and open your knees wide. Reach your arms long in front of you, taking a preparatory stretch.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart with your fingers wide.
If you’re scared, put a crash-pad — a blanket — in front of you but out of the way of your hands.
I guarantee you’ll fall. Falling is part of practicing. Just like life, the true beauty of balance poses is how gracefully you get back on your feet — or hands — and try again.
The higher up on your arms you can take your knees, the easier the pose will be. This is the hip-opening aspect. Squeeze your inner thighs around your upper arms—maybe even around your outer shoulders.
Flex and round your spine. Pull your naval back and tuck your tailbone. Feel strength in your abdominals and protract your shoulder blades, taking their inner borders away from each other and lifting the space between them toward the ceiling.
Press evenly into your hands and push the ground away rather than hanging heavily on your arms. This lift from your core and opening of your hips will help you take flight.
Now transfer your weight from the heels of your hands into your knuckles and fingertips. Gaze steadily ahead and play with picking up one foot. Maybe try picking up your other foot.
If both feet are up, glue them together and use your hip-flexors to hug them toward your glutes as you spread your toes.
Breathe. Hold your pose but not your breath for up to one minute. Release and rest.
The block helps elevate your hips. Getting your hips high and your thighs tight to your body are key elements of bakasana. Play with taking it away when you feel ready. The word “play” is important. Have fun! Try not to become discouraged. Smile and keep trying until you take flight.
Once you become proficient in the bent-arm version of this pose, begin to straighten your arms and loosen the grip of your knees on your arms. This takes more core strength and less arm work.
The ability to fly on your yoga mat will help your soar to new heights in other areas of life too.
Confidence and resiliency are crucial elements of success in any arena. Build yours by practicing bakasana. And who knows? Maybe you’ll cultivate strength and flexibility in your body along the way.