Good ol' Crow Pose. This is often the first arm balance we yogis journey into during a class. For me, it was and still is much more challenging than several other "more advanced" arm balances. Which is why I must practice it. The feeling of holding yourself up on your two strong hands is exhilaratingly incredible. Which is why I want to help you access Bakasana, or Crow Pose...and fly!!
Bakasana requires our bodies to warm up before entering. So, here is a mini sequence you can do to open your hips, activate your abs and mula bandha, and strengthen your shoulders. Please be sure to prepare your body well before you begin Bakasana. I promise you, it will make the pose much, much more accessible.
Once you have moved through a few vinyasa flows, spend at least 5-7 breaths in each pose below.
- Malasana/Squat: Ground your outer arches down as you lift your inner arches. Push your knees into your arms, your arms into your knees (this is the arm-knee pressure you will be needing in the final pose)
- Navasana/Boat: This can be done with knees bent or legs straight. When balancing, rock forward off of your tailbone and onto your sit bones. This will help you engage the proper abdominals. For extra engagement assistance, activate your mula bandha. Basically--squeeze your bathroom muscles.
- Ardha Pincha Mayurasana/Dolphin: This pose is downward facing dog on your forearms. puff up the back of your heart, rounding the space between your shoulder blades. Reach your shoulders toward your hips instead of into your ears. Take turns squeezing one knee up toward your armpit. Notice how much you need to round your back in order to reach your knee to your armpit or upper arm. Use mula bandha to help you here, as well.
- Ananda Balasana/Happy Baby: Do your best to create a 90 degree angle with your legs, aligning your heels over your knees, your knees over your hips. If holding onto your feet, as shown below, causes your shoulders to round off of the floor and your tailbone to rise from the floor, then hold onto the back of your thighs instead. This shape is meant to expand--spine, shoulders, and hips.
- Supta Bakasana/Crow Pose on your back: Connect your big toes, bring your arms inside of your legs, squeeze your knees into your triceps, and reach your flexed palms toward the sky until your shoulders lift off of the floor. Notice how much you need to round your spine in order to lift your shoulders.
Now that you're nice and warm, we can begin!
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart, fingers spread wide (the wider your fingers, the more supportive and strong your foundation. Spread 'em!)
- Bring your big toes to touch. Keep squeezing them together from here on out!
- Bend your knees and begin crawling them into your armpits. For an easier modification, you can place your knees onto your triceps, just outside of your armpits. This extra width goes a long way to help with balance.
- Rock forward onto the tips of your toes. Your drishti, or gaze, is much farther forward than you would think. Press your knees firmly into your arms.
- Bend your elbows to make a shelf for your knees. Puff the back of your heart up, stretching your shoulder blades away from each other as much as you can. Activate your mula bandha. Begin lifting one foot and then the other, returning to both big toes squeezing together ASAP.
- Gaze is far forward, back of heart is big and tall. Now...grip the floor with your finger pads, squeeze your toes toward your sit bones, and push firmly into the earth to straighten your arms and grow your crow even higher.
- Breathe. :)
- Roll out your wrists between rounds to keep them happy.
Nervous about falling? Modify with a block! I taught myself with a large peanut butter jar for my forehead to rest on while I gained the courage to lift my toes without fear of flying forward. Of course, yoga blocks are the more ideal size and softness. But you gotta do what you gotta do! Be sure to place the block far enough away from your hands so that you can still simulate reaching forward with your gaze and body. Simply lean forward until your forehead is resting on your block, then begin to lift one foot and then the other. Squeeze your feet together, puff up the back of your heart, and grip down with your fingers to rise up off of the block. See below for my 3 step play-by-play.
A more traditional approach to using a block to assist you is shown below. With your feet beginning at a higher level than your hands, it is easier to float them up. You essentially only have to lean forward, and voila! You can also use a strap around your upper arms to keep your elbows from splaying out to the sides. Remember, you're a tight little package on mini stilts! Keep those bows in.
Benefits of Bakasana
- Stretches upper back, groin, abductors
- Strengthens biceps, triceps, deltoids, quadriceps, adductors, wrists, hand and foot arches, abdominals, pelvic floor
- Builds agni, internal fire
- Amps up your "yes I can!" attitude