One of the first arm balances I learned was Bakasana, also known as Crow. Early on in my practice I couldn’t figure out the key to hitting an arm balance, but finally one day I sloppily hit the pose and blurted out ‘holy shit’ in a class full of calm yogis. I’ll also add that I thought all the blood vessels in my eyes were going to ooze out of my head, but that’s neither here nor there, I had accomplished the first step of arm balancing and that was taking flight. The key to working towards arm balancing is core strength. I enjoy teaching this arm balance to bulky Crossfitters who think it’s a piece of cake, I mean they can muscle into the pose but they have zero finesse. Below I’m going to break down the steps for you, work at your own pace and be mindful that crow pose is an evolutionary position. In yoga we’re always working towards a goal, but are grateful for where we are in the moment. Respect your body when attempting crow pose, but flirt with your limit.
The first step for working into crow, have your hands out in front of your body roughly hips width. Come down into a squatting position and work your knees INTO your armpits. Many people attempt crow pose by squeezing their knees to the outside of their biceps. This isn’t wrong, but I would like to challenge you to see if you’re able to gain access in this manner. You may find that your hips are tight and you’re unable to get your knees up into your armpits, work this position and notice the discomfort. Keep in mind discomfort is different from pain. If you’re ever feeling ANY pain, please come out of the pose immediately. Once squatted down, wiggle your body forward until your knees make a direct connection with your armpits. Note feet are about hips width as well (see below picture).
Once your knees have found a lovely home nestled inside your armpits it’s time to move the body forward. What do I mean? In order for your legs to lift, you need to create space. Leaning forward and allowing the front body to tilt down creates a see-saw action with the lower part of your body. While leaning forward and down, work on picking one leg up, perhaps just one at a time, that’s great progress. (See picture below)
Now, you’ve been able to keep the balance in your arms and you’ve lifted up both legs. (See below) The next transition comes from your core strength. Pulling up from your lower abdominals, bring the heels to your butt by lifting up and forward.
Your arms have created this strong shelf for your knees and you’ve lifted up and forward. This isn’t a brute strength pose, turn your inner muscles on and lift up. This is a great position to be in. If you get to this stage, work on holding AND breathing for 5-10 breathes.
If you’d like to explore further, work on straightening your arms. The front body is continuously moving forward while the heels are working towards the butt. The key to this pose isn’t locking out your elbows, it’s finding the core strength to lift and lengthen your spine and your arms. Note, my knees are still tucked into my arpmits. It’s easy to have the knees slouch down but if they are resting on your elbows it’s going to be impossible to straighten them. From straight arm Crow, now Crane, you can tuck your head down into tri-pod headstand, but we’ll save that for another day.
Give this arm balance a try, and I guarantee that feeling of flying is incredible! Feel free to tag me on Instagram if you’re attempting this pose or if you’re stuck and need some assistance @FeinerThanU. Until the next blog post, get that #YogaSwag on.