Crow Pose (Bakasana)
Have you ever noticed that there are several (perhaps many) yoga poses that are named after birds? Peacock Pose, Crane Pose, Pigeon Pose, Bird of Paradise (oh, wait....that's a flower.) These bird yoga poses all vary in nature: some are balancing postures, others assist with hip openers, and some take you upside down. One particular pose, Bakasana (bah-KAH-sah-nah) or Crow Pose, is an arm balancing posture that can be considered a great entry-level pose of this nature.
Crow Pose is essentially a pose where you are literally balancing on your hands. It requires core strength, flexibility, balance, and focus. But even though the pose may require these elements, you can also develop these skills when you practice this posture. And don't worry, if the pose seems a little bit too intimidating to practice, there are certainly modifications and variations that can help guide you to the full expression of the arm balancing pose. Here's how to do it.
One way to begin this pose is to be in a squatting position. There's even a name for this position: Malasana or Garland Pose. It is a deep inner thigh stretch. Your feet will be flat on the floor as you squat down with a deep knee bend. Your arms will be on the inside of your knees; hands at prayer position over your heart. From here you can move into the balancing position.
Lean forward and place your palms flat on your yoga mat in front of you. Keep leaning and rise up on your tip toes. This will lift your knees higher. As you lean forward, allow your elbows to bend and rest your upper knees on your triceps. Even if you only make it this far with the progression toward Crow Pose, this is excellent. It gives you the sensation of putting pressure on your hands before rising fully into the balance.
To proceed further, keep leaning more into your hands. Meanwhile, your head will dip down toward the floor, while your hips lift toward the ceiling. (Keep your core muscles engaged to help stabilize your body.) Your bent arms become a "shelf" for your knees. (Getting your arms at 90 degrees is ideal for this posture.) As the scale tips (head going down, hips going up) your toes will eventually lift away from the mat. Just as you're holding your core muscles tight, you also want to squeeze your elbows and knees toward each other to continue a line of energy moving toward your center. This, too, will keep you stable in your arm balancing pose.
Can't get your feet off the floor? Afraid that your head might drop onto the mat? You can use a couple of props to help with both of these situations. If you stand on a yoga block, this will get your knees and hips high enough so that you can eventually lean forward into the pose. If you're using the block, the toes can remain on the prop, or it may give you just enough of a lift that they actually pull away. You can also place a blanket out in front of you, just in case you tip over too far and your head touches the floor.
Don't worry, this is a pose that takes some time to master. Take your time as you slowly progress into this arm balancing position. It just takes some practice. Every little step counts.