Challenge Pose: Parsva Bakasana

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I'm writing this blog from the comfort of my parents home in South Carolina. Christmas is around the corner and our beautiful Christmas tree is directly behind my shoulder as I type away. It's scent tempts me to lounge below--reveling in its dancing lights and memories of the past year.

End of a year. Time to review. Time to reflect. Time to grow and continue on.

I did a radio interview earlier this morning called Reflections 2010. I came to realize that 2010 taught me one of my most valuable lessons--how to let go. I'm complicated (it's called Gemini) and have a strong mix of wanting to join my parents in the other room watching The Mentalist, while the other side wants to go out and conquer the world. Oh, and have it all mapped out. This year taught me that there is no such thing as planning your future or trying to control people and situations. I can wake up every day full of intention and step forward toward my dreams aiming true. That will never change. I will continue along that path but this time unattached to where it leads me. I know if I keep my intention focused, my heart open and my body strong I will end up exactly where I need to be and with exactly who I should be with. 

Side Crow is a huge challenge for many people, including myself at one point in time. Try practicing this pose with every intention of flying off the mat but realizing that every face-plant or hiccup is part of the journey and leading you toward the path of reaching the pose or whatever layer it is that will serve you best.

Then go conquer the world.

Step One: Find your foundation

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Begin in Tadasana. Keeping the weight in the heels, bend the knees, and drop the hips. Take a peak at you toes. If you can't see them, shift the shins back remaining in the heels until you see the tips. Descend the tailbone as you lift the arms and chest. Take one full breath in Chair Pose. Keeping the knees bent, draw the palms to the heart and twist to the right landing the left elbow on the right thigh. Stay here or reach the armpit towards the thigh. Push the Namaste palms into each other, aiming the right elbow at the ceiling. Keep the knees even (you can look down to make sure) and take 8 breaths. Come back to Chair Pose for one breath then push to stand. Repeat the second side.

Step two: Hop on your perch!

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Place a yoga block to its lowest level on the mat. Step onto the block coming into a squat with the heels and arches lifted. Keep the knees and big toes touching. Swing the left arm to the outside of the right thigh. If the elbow touches, keep working up the arm to get closer onto the leg. Place the fingertips down onto the floor and start to shift your energy to the hands with a slight bend in the elbows. Keep the thighs drawing tight into the chest. Take 8 breaths and switch sides.

Step three: Build a back-up wing

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Struggle with bearing weight on your arms? This move is for you. Drop down into squat balancing on the balls of your feet. Inhale, lift the left arm tall, exhale, drop the left arm to the outside of the right thigh to create the twist. Grab a yoga block with the right hand and place it to the inside of the right hand, with palms shoulder-width apart. Bend the elbows, leaning the chest forward until you can rest the right shoulder head on top of the block. Depending on your size you may need to adjust the location of the block a bit. Once you can bear weight onto the block, sweep the shin bones parallel to the ground, lifting the heels in line with the knees, knees in line with the hips. Extend the sternum forward along with the gaze. Take 1-8 breaths. Enjoy the experience of having both feet leave the ground! Set the feet down and switch sides.

Step four: Side crow gets a training wheel

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Come into a squat with the knees touching, balancing on the balls of the feet. Inhale, lift the left arm, extending upward through the heart, exhale, twist and reach the left elbow to the outside of the right thigh. Work the elbow down, getting closer to the armpit. Place the right hand in front of the right heel and bend the elbows toward Chaturanga. As you lower, place the right hip onto the right elbow for extra shelf support. Once you can't lower anymore, sweep the feet up away from the ground, working toward being parallel with the mat. Hug the elbows in and find a small round in the upper back. You will feel compact, but just keep trusting. Take 5-8 breaths. Place the feet down and switch sides.

Step five: Open the cage door and fly!

Begin in the same twisted squat as in Step Four. Instead of lining the right hand up with the right heel, walk the palm out so the hands are shoulder-width apart (this will require a deeper twist from the left arm, so work the elbow down as much as you can). Bend the elbows, keeping them stacked over the wrists. Reach your face toward the ground as if you were about to take a bite out of something delicious on the floor. In a sweeping action, keep the knees and feet touching as you lift the shins away from the ground. Hug the heels in tight to your bottom, and work on keeping the feet in line with the knees. To straighten the arms, round the upper back as you push the palms firmly into the ground. Keep a tiny package in your bent knees as they pull into your chest. The shoulders will gently pass forward of the wrists, so keep the outer upper arms firming in and the index fingers and thumbs firmly rooted. Spread the toes. Take a few breaths here and come down and rest. Congratulations!! 

Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.