Twist and Lift: Revolved Crane

Twist to prepare for the challenging arm balance Parsva Bakasana.
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Twist to prepare for the challenging arm balance Parsva Bakasana.
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By all appearances, Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose) seems to require serious upper-body strength. But Prana Flow Yoga teacher Simon Park says that brute strength isn't the key. Instead, mastering the physics of the pose will help you unlock Side Crane. You need enough twist to place your elbow on the outside of the opposite leg and get both arms on the floor in the shape of Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose).

Here, Park shares a thorough twisting practice that will lead you into this challenging arm balance. Approach it with a childlike sense of wonder and playfulness instead of focusing on the physical achievement. After all, the therapeutic benefits of twists themselves are powerful. In Parsva Bakasana, sensation and movement are created in the lower spine and deep soft-tissue structures (including the digestive and reproductive systems) of that region. Many of the body's major organs and the nerves that manage these significant structures are located here. The twisting and strengthening action of the pose increases the digestive fire and keeps the reproductive system healthy.

Before you begin, Park suggests you keep these tips in mind. First, since twists require that you compress the abdomen, try to practice them on a relatively empty stomach. Second, keep your hips even in all the poses to avoid tweaking your lower back. Third, don't force your breath in twists; instead, relax and allow the breath to find its way into your body. If the last few poses are out of your reach, enjoy poses 1 through 4 for a while. After some practice, the final poses will present themselves to you on a silver platter, Park says.

To Begin

Warm Up: Practice a combination of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) A and B, or try variations that include shoulder openings and twists. Another great prep pose is Jathara Parivartanasana(Revolved Abdomen Pose). With the same twisting action as Parsva Bakasana, it warms up the core and loosens the back.

Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online here.

To Finish

Cool Down: Stabilize your nervous system and your back with a long-held Prasarita Padottanasana" (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend) with the hands on the floor. A finishing sequence of Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Halasana (Plow Pose), and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) or Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) will guide you quietly toward Savasana (Corpse Pose).

Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online here.