I’ve been practicing yoga for years and have been teaching for a little over a year and a half now. I’m still working toward numerous inversions, back bends, and arm balances. That’s what I love the most about my yoga practice: the never-ending path of self-discovery.
Call me crazy, but I live for the hard lessons. They have the greatest pay off in the end—the trials and lessons that make you question yourself, the ones that provide you with opportunities to better yourself, and sometimes even the ones that result in laughing hysterically at myself in the middle of class when I face plant for the tenth time in a row trying to master an arm balance.
Bakasana (bah-KAHS-uh-nuh) is the Sanskrit word for Crow or Crane Pose. It’s a great arm balance for beginners and always amusing to play with. I write you today not from the perspective of someone who has a the most beautiful Crow Pose, but from an aspiring bird working toward taking flight. Let the journey begin.
Step One: Conquer the Fear
Arm balances and inversions are intimidating, especially when you’re first learning. It’s OK to be a little scared of a challenging pose, but get in the habit of using your fears as a way to empower yourself. Acknowledge that you’re a little anxious and turn that feeling into excitement. Visualize yourself in the pose feeling capable and confident. Verbally tell yourself that you can do it. Our thoughts create our reality, so believe in yourself. You are strong enough to accomplish anything you set your mind to. Day dreaming about conquering the pose will expedite the entire process. Crush your fears before they have an opportunity to hinder your true potential. You are a crow.
Step Two: Prepare Yourself for Flight
Don’t rush into an arm balance before mentally and physically preparing yourself. Make sure your muscles have been warmed up and you’ve stretched before attempting to fly. Here are some tips:
- Incorporate wrist stretches into your daily routine
- Start to love Cat-Cow pose as you explore broadening the shoulders for what is called “bird back.” Garudasana (Eagle Pose) is a juicy alternative.
- Open the hips. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) is a great option.
- Warm up the abdominals with some core work.
- It’s always a good idea to start out with a few Surya A’s (Sun Salutations) to foster the breath/body connection.
- As always, your breath is the key—don’t forget to breathe!
Step Three: Identify Where Everything Goes and Find Your Inner Crow
Like many other poses, Crow is not all about strength and flexibility. It has a lot to do with learning where to shift your weight and engaging the correct muscle groups in the body. Here’s how you do it:
- Find a squat position with your big toes together (or close together).
- For beginners, start perched on a block to elevate your knees and hips for easier take off.
- Widen your knees beyond your hips.
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart in front of you.
- Spread your fingers wide and point the middle fingers forward.
- Get your knees high up near your arm pits on the outside of your triceps.
- Shift your weight forward onto your arms.
- Begin to lift onto the balls of your feet (use a blanket if you need extra support).
- ENGAGE THE CORE LIKE CRAZY. Abs move in and up the entire time.
- Tailbone reaches down toward the heels as you find your “bird back.”
- Don’t let the elbows splay outward; keep them bending straight back.
- Gaze forward.
- As you transfer your weight forward, lift one foot off the ground and point the toes, then alternate one foot up and the other down until you feel comfortable. When you’re ready, let both feet come off the mat.
- Heels reach toward your booty and big toes touch.
- Hug your legs into your triceps like you never want to let go.
Step Four: Be Patient
If it were easy it wouldn’t be fun. Arm balances take lots of practice and patience, so have fun with it. The journey to success must be earned. It may take days, weeks, or months to lock down Bakasana. Take your time and never push yourself too far. When you feel comfortable with the bent arm (Crow) variation you can start to practice the straight arm variation (Crane) which adds an extra element of difficulty.
For more information on Bakasana check out Crow Pose Essentials.
Photo by Alexandra Côté-Durrer