Take Flight

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Vinyasa flow teacher Natasha Rizopolous counts Bakasana (Crane Pose) as one of her favorites. “I love arm balances, because they bring you to that place of one-pointed focus that is yoga,” she says. But when she first encountered the pose, her naturally flexible frame struggled to find the stability to balance. As a teacher, she often notices the opposite, but equally frustrating, problem for strong, stiff students—they have the strength to muscle into the pose but lack the openness to complete the desired shape, which leaves their bottoms sticking up high in the air. Fortunately, Rizopolous has found a way to overcome both of these challenges—she encourages students to let go of the result and focus on the actions that make up the pose. “Once you master the actions, the pose will unfold naturally,” she says.

In the sequence that follows, Rizopolous teaches a dual action for Bakasana. First, draw your belly up and round your entire spine. From there, extend your breastbone away from your navel. Balancing these two actions will help you achieve Bakasana—without butt-in-the-air syndrome.

Before You Begin

Sit in a simple cross-legged position with your torso and arms extended forward and a block beneath your forehead. Establish steady Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath). Stay for a minute or two, and then switch the cross of your legs. Fold forward again, sending your breath to your hips to help them warm up and open. Turn your attention inward by focusing on your breath and the point of contact between the block and your forehead.

Take two or three rounds each of Surya Namaskar A and B. Follow this with Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), holding for 10 to 12 breaths on each side; then come into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).

After You Finish

After Bakasana, take Pada Hastasana (Foot-to-Hand Pose) to release your wrists, then Balasana (Child’s Pose) to quiet your mind. Finish with a calming pose like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) or Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose), and then a gentle twist before Savasana (Corpse Pose).