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Arm Balance Yoga Poses

Side Crane (Crow) Pose

The key to Parsva Bakasana is twisting enough to place the outer edge of one upper arm far around the outside of the opposite thigh.

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Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane or Crow Pose) is an arm balance that can build confidence, help you face your fears, and teach you to be flexible.

Instead of putting one knee on each arm as you would in Crane Pose, Side Crane Pose requires you to engage your obliques and stack both knees against one of your elbows.

Spread your fingertips and press your hands into the ground to engage and strengthen your shoulders. Once you take flight in Crane Pose, make slight movements back and forth, balancing between strength and flexibility, until you find the sweet spot and it feels effortless.

Side Crane (Crow) basics

Sanskrit: Parsva Bakasana (parsh-vuh buk-AHS-uh-nuh)

Pose type: Arm balance

Targets: Upper body

Why we love it: “Side Crow was one of those poses where I was like, ‘There is no way I will be able to do this one handed.’ Because in the classical shape, your second arm is out in front a bit and your body you turn is on the one arm. It blew my mind that people could so easily balance like a little top. And then one day, I centered my opposite arm on my outer thigh and it was like a light bulb went off. I was truly flying! And all my weight was on one arm. I mean, of course, the other arm participated, but this felt way more satisfying than any of the arm balances where you’re on both hands equally. It showed me the power of counter-balancing, combined with a whole lot of believing in yourself.” —Yoga Journal contributor Sarah Ezrin

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Pose benefits

In addition to strengthening your arms and wrists, this pose can improve your sense of balance. It also helps tone your abdominal muscles and your spine.

Side Crane (Crow) Pose: Step-by-Step instructions

Woman demonstrates Side Crane (Crow) Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
  1. Come into a squat with your feet and knees together, facing the left side of the mat.
  2. Inhale your left arm to the ceiling, then exhale and press your left outer upper arm to the outside of your right thigh.
  3. Place your hands on the floor shoulder-distance apart. Make sure your wrist creases are parallel to each other and to the front border of the mat.
  4. Extend your sternum away from your navel to shift forward so your elbows stack over your wrists.
  5. Lift your heels toward your buttocks while rolling the heads of your upper arms back and up away from the floor.
  6. Perch your right outer thigh on the shelf of your left upper arm. Pin your right elbow into your midline.
  7. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then either release your feet to the floor or open your legs into Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (One-Footed Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya 1).
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Teaching Side Crane (Crow)

These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • Don’t compress your wrists. In order to avoid this common mistake, yoga teacher Tias Little advises spreading your fingers, as if stretching the webbing between them. This action will provide support for your upper body.
  • Use a prop. To secure your balance, lower your forehead onto a block or bolster as you lift your feet off the floor.

Variation: Side Crow with straight legs

Woman demonstrates a modification for Side Crane (Crow) Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

After getting into the pose, you can try to slowly straighten your knees for more of a challenge.

Preparatory poses

Marichyasana I (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marich I)

Pasasana (Noose Pose)

Bakasana (Crane (Crow) Pose))

Counter poses

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

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