Bakasana—the beloved Crow pose.
This pose is typically the first arm balance that yogis learn. It takes more trust than strength to execute this particular pose. However, once you’ve gotten the hand of Crow pose, all other arm balances become simple.
From the ground up
1. Begin in Malasana, or Garland pose. Start by building a strong foundation, your hands. Place your hands shoulder width apart on your yoga mat. Spread the fingers wide to give yourself a greater surface area to balance on. Once you are in the pose, you will be able to use your hands to stay balanced.
2. Now think strong Chaturanga arms. Begin to bend the elbows, transferring your weight to your hands.
3. Lift the hips up high and walk the feet in close together. Lift the heels up so you are on the balls of your feet.
4. Place your knees onto your triceps, as close to the under arms as possible. By beginning with the knees high, you should still be able to execute the pose if your knees slide a bit. Beginning with the knees too low could mean that if you slide, the knees will fall off entirely and you’ll have to reset yourself into place.5. That first time you find balance in Crow pose can be such an exciting moment! Savor it, show your friends, enjoy it. And know that there is even more to come—with practice!
6. Now trust yourself. Keep your gaze forward—not down. Looking down moves your energy down and that is not where you’re going. Transfer more weight into your fingertips. Eventually you will be able to transfer so much weight forward that your feet easily float off of the mat. For now, try lifting one foot at a time off of the ground.
7. Trust yourself again. It is far more likely for you to fall out of the pose by lowering your feet back down than it is for your to actually fall forward onto your face. If you are afraid of falling onto your face, place a pillow or stack of pillows in front of you to use as a crash pad.
8. Once you feel your feet lift off of the ground, engage by squeezing your heels in toward your glutes. Press your upper back up as if in Cat pose. Engage your inner thighs by hugging the knees in toward the arms.
9. Keep looking forward, not down—remember you’re not going down. If you feel yourself falling back onto your feet, find balance by sending more weight forward into your fingertips. If you feel yourself falling too far forward, send some weight into the heels of your hands.
Prop it up!
When learning how to lift off into Crow pose, it can be very helpful to use props at first. Using a crash pad can be helpful to get over the fear factor. Place some pillows in front of your face so that if you fall forward, at least you’ll fall softly. You might even choose to practice falling forward into the pillows so that you can see how painless it is and completely get over the fear.
There are two ways to use blocks in this pose. The first is to step your feet onto the block. This will help elevate the hips even more so that you are starting off closer to the actual pose. Because the feet are higher to begin with, you have a shorter distance to travel to lift into Bakasana.
1. Begin just the same in Malasana, but with a block between your feet.
2. After you set up your hands, step one foot at a time onto the block.
3. Then proceed with the steps listed above to lift into Crow pose!
The second way to use a block in Crow pose is not my favorite, however it can be helpful to get the feeling of the feet coming off the ground as in Crow pose. This set up does not actually teach you proper alignment, nor is it a good example of what Bakasana actually feels like once you are in it—but it is accessible and you will feel your feet come off the ground and that is pretty exciting!
1. Begin in Malasana, but with a block on the highest setting in front of you, about a foot.
2. Set up the same way as listed above, steps one through four.
3. Once your knees are on your triceps, place your forehead on the block. Make sure that you feel you have enough space to tilt forward. You may need to readjust the block further or closer to you. Your head should not be tucked under too far and you also should not feel that you are reaching so far forward that you might fall.
4. Keep sending weight into your fingertips. Very little weight is actually transferred onto the forehead. This is just for balance.
5. Lift the feet off the ground and find engagement by hugging the knees into your triceps, squeeze the feet towards glutes, and press the upper back up towards the sky like in Cat pose.
Eventually once you’ve been practicing awhile, you will be ready for the full expression of Bakasana. This is often called Crane pose which is actually what Bakasana translates into. This pose looks quite similar to Crow pose, but with straight arms. This pose is typically not suitable for beginners as it requires a lot of core strength.
In Crow pose, the bent elbows create a shelf for the knees to rest on. While in Crane pose, the arms are straight so there is nothing to rest on—this means you must rely on your strength to hold yourself up in the pose. Not an easy feat! Practicing Crow pose will help build the strength required to hold the body up in Crane pose.