Bakasana - Crow/Crane Pose
By: Jason Lawner, Green Monkey Instructor - South Miami and Miami Beach
Ahhh crow pose, probably the most commonly seen two-handed arm balance in yoga classes, and for good reason too. It’s one of those poses that once well practiced and understood can cultivate the proper actions necessary for even more challenging handbalancings.
Because this pose is so common, I find that many teachers do not actually “teach” the pose, but rather call the asana out amid difficult vinyasa sequences. All of this can leave students who are not able to do bakasana feeling left out, “waiting” for the handbalancing madness to be over.
Hopefully this post will shed some light on this challenging pose and will help all of us to feel more confident and powerful practicing this handbalance. Maybe it will even encourage some of you to finally give it a go and take flight!
This pose requires some hip opening. If you tend to be “tight” in your hips in squatting positions, you will be served by warming up your hips before you practice bakasana.
To begin, start in a low squat (malasana) bringing the feet together and widening your knees apart bringing your arms on the inside of your legs. The lower that you can get your arms towards your ankles the easier this pose will ultimately be. So take some time here breathing here.
Place your hands outer shoulder distance apart with the creases of your wrists parallel to the front edge of your mat (no turning in or out with your hands) and “claw” the mat, pressing your finger-tips and the ridges of the hands firmly into the mat. Pay special attention to the index knuckles to make sure they are fully connected to the ground and that you are not collapsing your weight into the heels of the hands. This action is crucial as it will help protect the wrists and shoulders from injury. For your safety, until you are able to do this, I recommend not continuing on.
From here, squeeze the knees towards each other on the backs of the upper arms and begin to lean forward bringing your elbows further forward. As you do this you should feel more and more body weight being transferred into the arms.
Keep looking actively forward, as if curling the head back like an upper backbend. Many of us have the tendency to let the head drop which further complicates this already difficult pose.
Many of you will choose to stay here getting more comfortable and with the weight in your arms, and strengthening the arms…
Next, spread your toes and take one foot off of the ground and immediately hug (more like squeeze) that foot/leg strongly into the midline. Then place that foot down and do the same action with the other leg.
*I cannot stress the importance of the legs enough in armbalances. As you know if you’ve taken class with me…USE YOUR LEGS! USE YOUR LEGS! USE YOUR LEGS! I like to tell students not to worry about the arms, because that will happen automatically. Instead, focus your attention on engaging your legs, drawing them firmly towards the midline or each other in this pose.
Once you have “mastered” this step, you are ready to try taking both of your legs off of the ground. Lift one leg and hug it towards the midline and then take the other leg off of the floor and squeeze it towards the midline, joining the inner edges of both feet very actively together (continuing to spread the toes the whole time). Hold for a couple of breaths and then lower with control back to the floor.
Once you’ve got this down, you can play with taking both feet off of the floor at the same time (keeping the inner edges of the feet together throughout)!
Once you’ve figured out how to take lift off and balance there for a couple of breaths, the next step is trying to fully straighten your arms. There’s no doubt about it that this move does require more arm/upper body strength to pull of, but the real key is in understanding how to move your body into the optimal shape to make this move more accessible.
Here it goes:
Most of us learn this pose in a version with the hips higher, to much higher, than our low back. It feels more like you are perched and leaning into the backs of your upper arms than you are strongly and confidently in the pose.
In order to really get the kind of lift needed to straighten the arms (and eventually float up into handstand! Oh my goodness, I know…crazy!) you’ll need to round your body into a tighter and stronger package.
Once in the pose you are going to focus on rounding your lower back (like crazy!!!), pull your feet up towards your hips, and lower the back of the pelvis down so that the lower back becomes the highest point of the pose. This will take some work, so having a friend’s watchful eye is always very helpful.
Once you feel as if you can do that deep rounded action in bakasana, begin to root down the arms, stretching them straighter and straighter until … Tada – FULL POSE!
Let me know how it goes and if this was helpful to you.
Have fun, enjoy yourself, and don’t take this too seriously. It’s called practice for a reason and this pose may take some practice. Good luck yogis!