Let’s face it, some yoga poses look downright treacherous!
But not all scary yoga poses are as scary as you might think.
Halloween is a time for facing our fears.
Whether that’s by watching a scary movie, walking through a haunted house OR tackling a yoga pose that makes your eyes widen when the teacher demonstrates it—we love a good, safe adrenaline rush!
And the feeling you get when you learn a new pose is *chef’s kiss*—hello dopamine!
Below are some poses that many yogis find quite scary at first—and how to try them out safely! Remember to work with an experienced teacher, be mindful of your injuries, and use props to keep yourself safe.
Spooky Yoga Poses Explained
Bakasana, or Crow pose, is typically the first arm balance yoga students learn. Our biggest fear in this pose is that we’ll fall on our face—and that’s scary!
The reality is that while Bakasana looks scary, most of the time when we fall out of the pose we fall back on our feet.
Here’s how to try Bakasana safely & conquer your fear:
- Warm up with some shoulder strengthening poses like Downdog and Chaturanga.
- Set up with a crash pad! A pillow or stack of blankets in front of you is perfect.
- Begin in a crouched position, or a narrow Malasana.
- Place your hands shoulder width distance apart on the mat in front of you with your crash pad forward of your hands. *NOTE: Spread your fingers apart and ground your knuckles down. Your hands are your foundation here so it’s important that they are actively engaged.*
- Option to place your feet on a block—this helps you start out elevated so it takes less strength to lift yourself up.
- Set your knees as high up onto your arms as you can. Aim for the top of your triceps.
- Now you’re ready to take flight! Lean your weight forward until you feel ready to float your feet up. No jumping is necessary.
- If you began on a block, try lifting one foot at a time.
- If you fell back onto your feet, you need to send more weight forward to counterbalance. Look forward a foot or so in front of you to help you encourage your weight forward into your hands.
- *TIPS TO FACE YOUR FEARS: Ask your teacher to spot you. They’ll crouch in front of you with their hands at your collar bones to catch you as you lean forward.*
Astavakrasana, or Eight Angle Pose/Eight Crooked Limbs Pose, looks much scarier than it actually is!
While this pose appears complicated, it’s easier than it looks. Hip mobility is needed here so be sure to warm up with lots of externally rotated hip opening poses.
It’s not likely you’ll fall on your face here, but practice with a crash pad anyway if that will help you build confidence!
Here’s how to practice Astavakrasana:
- Warm up with plenty of externally rotated hip openers. Use poses like Baddha Konasana, Pigeon, Extended Side Angle, and Compass Pose.
- I typically sequence Astavakrasana after Compass Pose so that students who would rather opt out of Astavakrasana can continue working on Compass.
- Begin seated and cradle your right leg in your hands. Warm up your hip joint by rocking your leg back and forth, and pressing your leg back behind your body. Go only as far as you can without pain.
- Once your hip feels warmed up & ready to go, wrap your leg over your shoulder like you would for Compass Pose. Engage your inner thigh and hip flexors to keep your leg in place.
- Next, cross your left ankle over the right ankle creating a hook.
- Then, place your hands down on the mat about shoulder distance apart or slightly wider. Remember your hands are your base here, so spread your fingers and ground your knuckles into the mat.
- Now you’re ready for takeoff! To lift up, bend your elbows, and lean forward. Squeeze your right thigh into your right arm to help lift your hips.
- Then repeat on the other side!
Devaduuta Panna Asana, or Fallen Angel Pose, is another pose that looks much scarier than it is!
It’s similar to Parsva Bakasana, or Side Crow, and is sometimes considered an advanced version of the pose. Because this pose is similar to Side Crow, it’s necessary to warm up with a lot of twists, and shoulder strengthening poses.
This isn’t a pose you should go into without proper warm up. It also helps to have a stable Side Crow before attempting Fallen Angel. Some students find it helpful to practice Fallen Angel with a blanket for cushion for the side of the head.
As you get stronger, you should be able to practice this pose with minimal weight on the head.
Here’s how to practice Fallen Angel:
- Warm up with plenty of twists, hamstring stretches, and shoulder strengthening poses. Below are some suggested warm up poses.
- Twists: Ardha Matseyendrasana, Parvritta Anjaneyasana or Lunge Twist, and Parvritta Trikonasna or Revolved Pyramid
- Hamstring Stretches: Janu Sirsasana, Parsvottanasana or Pyramid Pose, and Uttanasana or Forward Fold.
- Shoulder Strengthening Poses: Chaturanga Dandasana, Dolphin Pose, Bakasana or Crow Pose, Parsva Bakasana or Side Crow.
- Set up as though you were going into Parsva Bakasana or Side Crow. Begin in a crouched position facing the left side of the mat, then twist to the right and place your hands on the mat in front of your right thigh. You should end up facing the front of the mat.
- If you’d like to use a blanket for cushion, place that on the mat in front of your hands.
- *NOTE: Your hands are your main foundation so spread your fingers and actively ground your knuckles down.*
- Support the top of your right thigh (or hip) with your right elbow, and use your left elbow to support the right thigh closer to the knee.
- Lean forward into Side Crow. Squeeze your thighs together.
- Continue leaning forward until you can rest the right cheek on the blanket or the mat in front of you. Stay engaged and lifted—don’t collapse!
- Keep your right leg where it is on your arms. Then lift your left leg. First, lift your left knee, then as you feel stable, extend your left leg up towards the ceiling. Your right hip may slide away, and your right elbow will then support your right ribs.
- Stay for several deep breaths or until you feel ready to exit the pose. Exit by drawing your left knee back into your chest, and leaning back onto your feet.
- Repeat on the other side!
Bird of Paradise
Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise, can look and feel intimidating.
Although it’s a standing balance, this pose can be just as scary as arm balances!
There are many ways to get into this pose, but it’s most commonly entered from Bound Extended Side Angle.
There are plenty of safe places to stop and build strength as you get into the pose.
Here’s how to practice Bird of Paradise:
- Warm up your hips, hamstrings, and shoulder internal rotation. Try these poses to warm up properly before practicing:
- Hips: Trikonasana or Triangle Pose, Extended Side Angle or Utthita Parsvakonasana, and Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II.
- Hamstrings: Pyramid Pose or Parsvottanasana, Janu Sirsasana, and Half Split or Ardha Hanumanasana.
- Shoulder Internal Rotation: Bound Locust or Baddha Hasta Shalabhasana, Cow Face Pose or Gomukhasana, and Bound Extended Side Angle or Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana.
- Begin in Warrior II with your right leg forward, then transition into a variation of Extended Side Angle by placing your right hand on the mat inside of your right foot. Then reach your left arm overhead. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Move into Bound Extended Side Angle. Reach your right arm under your right thigh, aiming your right hand for your right outer hip. Then reach your left hand towards your right hand. If you’re able to clasp hands, do so, but if not, use a strap for the bind.
- *If this feels challenging enough, feel free to stop here and work on this pose.
- Look down and step your left leg (back leg) towards the top of the mat—ideally it lands in line with your right foot but if it doesn’t get that far, that’s okay.
- Transfer your weight onto your left foot. You should be able to come onto the ball of the right foot. *This is another good place to stop if moving forward feels unsafe.*
- Engage your core and slowly stand up. Don’t rush it! If you lose the bind, lower back down and find the bind again.
- Once standing, extend your right leg as much as you’re able to. You can also keep the knee bent and work on the balance here if it feels challenging enough.
TO MODIFY: This pose can be modified by using a wall. To do so
- Begin standing next to a wall. Lift your right leg and press your foot into the wall.
- Now find the bind by weaving your right arm underneath your right thigh, and clasping your hands near your hip. Or use a strap to find the bind.
- If you’d like to balance without the wall, play with leaning more weight into your standing foot. Engage your quads to extend your leg and point your toes to come off or partially off of the wall.
- Then try it on the other side!
Wheel Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana, is a deep backbend where you’re essentially holding your body upside down!
Many yoga practitioners find this pose terrifying. Part of the reason it’s scary is because it feel vulnerable. And vulnerability is s c a r y for many people.
But practiced safely, and especially with a teacher, it can be quite energizing and beneficial.
Wheel Pose is contraindicated for students with wrist injuries, some shoulder injuries, glaucoma, head injuries, and some back injuries.
Check with your doctor and work with an experienced teacher before practicing Wheel if you’ve had any injuries.
Warm up with plenty of backbends, like Camel, Puppy Pose, and Upward Facing Dog.
To get into the pose without modifications:
- Begin lying down with bent knees.
- Place your hands in line with your shoulders, fingers facing your shoulders.
- Then press into your hands and feet to lift yourself up.
If that felt easy, great!
But if not, let’s troubleshoot.
Wheel pose with modifications:
If grounding your hands down while lying on your back was a challenge, try this option for wrist sensitivity:
- Set up with blocks shoulder width distance apart on the lowest setting against a wall.
- Lie down with your head between the blocks and knees bent.
- Place your hands on the blocks. Your fingers can grip the front of the blocks if flattening your hands is uncomfortable for your wrists.
- *NOTE: If this position is still not comfortable for your wrists, set the blocks up at an angle against the wall. If you have angled blocks, that works too! This decreases the angle of your wrists. Press equally into your fingers and heels of your hands. Press into hands and feet to lift up.
If extending your arms in this pose felt challenging, it might be shoulder mobility that’s stopping you.
In that case, try adding more shoulder opening poses into your practice.
Some poses you can add are:
- Puppy Pose
- Half Bow with a Strap
- Warrior I Backbend with a Strap
*NOTE: This is not a quick fix and may not happen today. If you’ve had shoulder injuries in the past, this pose may not become a part of your practice—and that’s okay!*
Pincha Mayurasana, or Forearm Stand, is an inversion. Balancing on your forearms while upside down is sure to bring up fear, adrenaline, and maybe even some ego stuff.
Pincha Mayurasana is generally considered safe unless you’ve had shoulder injuries, glaucoma or other eye injuries, or head injury. As always, check with your doctor before practicing this pose if you’re working with injuries.
If you’re new to inversions, work with a wall (and/or an experienced teacher) while you’re building strength in the pose.
To get into modified Pincha Mayurasana:
- Warm up with plenty of shoulder strengtheners, shoulder stretches, hamstring stretches, and core work. Try these poses:
- Shoulder Strengtheners: Chaturanga Dandasana, Plank Pose, Dolphin Pose, Forearm Plank.
- Shoulder Stretches: Puppy Pose, Gomukhasana or Cow Face Pose.
- Hamstring Stretches: Parsvakonasana or Pyramid Pose, Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Fold, and Uttanasana or Forward Fold.
- Core Work: Navasana, Navasana with Arms Overhead, Locust.
- Set up with the short side of your mat against a wall.
- Begin in a tabletop position facing away from the wall. Then lower your forearms down. Stack your shoulders over your elbows and hips over your knees.
- Lift your hips up into Dolphin.
- Walk one foot at a time up to the height of your hips.
- Work your shoulder strength here. If you feel strong and stable, lift one leg up towards the ceiling. Then place that foot back on the wall, and lift the other leg up.
- Once you feel confident in this variation, you can try facing the wall and kicking up to the wall.
This is your sign to try that scary yoga pose you’ve been dreading!
You might surprise yourself. Happy Spooky Season!