Crow Pose: Bakasana (bahk-AHS-anna)
Baka means ‘crane’ but here in the West, we call it Crow Pose. It seems like the perfect pose for the fall month of October.
This pose takes strength and determination, yet, to be honest, it looks harder than it is. That’s what makes it a good ‘party pose.’ What’s that, you ask? You know, when you are at a party in Marin and after a couple cabernets, you start to do yoga. It happens all the time, right before hot-tubbing.
Kidding aside, this is how to do this challenging arm balance:
1. Set up the Foundation. A good place to start is in Malasana/Garland Pose. From there, place your hands on the floor shoulder width apart, wrist creases in one line with fingers spread wide. Spreading the whole hand wide on the floor helps to create a strong foundation. Then, lift your hips, turn your feet to parallel, come onto tip toes, and walk your feet toward your hands.
2. Bend your elbows to create a shelf on your upper arm. As you bend the elbows, you need to lean forward so that your elbows stay directly over your wrists. Don’t let the elbow fan out to the side. This is the key. If you build a house, the walls need to be straight. If they are angled out, everything collapses. So get this part right and you are half way there: hands are the foundation, and forearms are the walls.
3. To get the forearms perpendicular to the floor, hug the elbows in. Your shoulders and head need to come forward a lot. This is where people get uncomfortable. It feels like you are going to fall forward onto your face. You might, but don’t worry, you are not that far from the ground. You can place some pillows there to help you feel safer. Eventually, you will notice that your legs and hips back behind you balance the weight very nicely, like an old-fashioned scale.
4. Place your knees up onto your upper arms.
5. When you feel supported by your arms, lift one toe at a time up off the floor. It may take a couple tries of this. Once both ar lifted, squeeze your legs together. Use your core to help you balance.
When you first start out, it may be close to the elbows. Aim for the indentation between deltoid and tricep. That is what I am doing in this photo. Yoga purists will tell you that the knees are supposed to be up toward the armpits with the arms straight. That is surely more difficult and less accessible. The version I describe above is safe (minus the party and the cabernet) and I suggest you start with that.
If you are feeling discouraged, try these two tricks (or treats)
- Enter the pose with feet on a yoga block to help elevate your knees so you can get them onto the upper arms more easily.
- Use a block under your head in front of you to create a tripod shape for a moment to stabilize as you lift your knees onto the upper arms. Once your knees are on your upper arms, slowly lift your head off the block.
I love seeing the pride and joy when a person is successful in this pose. One of my absolute favorite yoga teaching memories is with a class of over 50 or more high school students. The goofy 15-year old boys came into class with an attitude that yoga was painfully uninteresting. They were being disruptive until I started teaching crow pose. At that point, they became totally absorbed and felt a sense of great pride when they accomplished this ‘party pose’ for the first time.
It’s fun and good for the body/brain connection to try something new. Go outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t succeed at first, try again. You might fall but… Enjoy the Fall!
Kristen Addicks has been practicing yoga for 25 years and teaches in Marin at Sukha Yoga, Some Like it Hot Yoga & Boutique, and Rolling Hills Country Club. Kristen believes that being out in nature is also part of the yoga experience. Therefore, she feels fortunate to have been able to call Marin County home for over 20 years. When not in a yoga studio, she can be found hiking or in some nearby body of water. Kristen leads yoga+adventure retreats where she combines yoga with adventurous activities in a beautiful location that includes sun, water, wildlife and culture. www.kristenaddicksyoga.com.