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For many of us, our first attempt at an arm balance isn’t always successful (or pretty), which makes this type of yoga pose challenging to the body and the ego. Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Kakasana (Crow Pose) are among the first arm balances that many students achieve. Getting into the pose can feel nearly impossible—until it doesn’t. These poses offer you an opportunity to feel both strong and flexible, which can motivate you to challenge yourself in other ways in your practice.
While Crane and Crow are technically two different poses, many people practice these as modifications of one another. Kakasana (Crow Pose) is done with your arms bent and your knees resting on your upper arms. In Bakasana (Crane Pose), your arms are straight and your knees are tucked closer to your underarms. Play with variations that work best for your body.
To get into either pose, you need to activate your abdominal muscles, press into your hands, engage your shoulder blades, squeeze your legs together in midline, and above all else, trust yourself. Bakasana teaches you to create connections between your arms and knees, abdominals and spine, mind and body.
The result? Strengthened abdominal muscles, arms, and wrists, and a stretch in your upper back and inner groin. But perhaps even better, you may enjoy the confidence that comes with facing your fears and somehow managing to hold it all together while simultaneously letting go.
Crow Pose and Crane Pose basics
Sanskrit: Kakasana (kah-KAHS-ah-nah), Bakasana (bah-KAHS-ah-nah),
Pose type: Arm balance
Target area: Upper body
Why we love it: “Crow was the first challenge pose that I ever tried, and to this day it’s still the pose that I turn to when I want to feel strong, grounded, and confident,” says Kyle Houseworth, YJ assistant editor. “For years I had to constantly check step-by-step guides to make sure I was practicing it correctly (where should the knees go?) and that’s why it’s still a staple in my practice. There’s always something new to tweak, no matter how many times I get into it.”
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Crow Pose and Crane Pose improve focus, and stretch your buttocks (glutes), your back, and the palm sides of your wrists (wrist flexors). These poses also strengthen your core, upper back, chest, front of your hips (hip flexors), back of your thighs (hamstrings), arms, shoulders, forearms, and back of your wrists (wrist extensors).
Crow Pose and Crane Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin in a squat with your knees wide apart. Your feet may be together or apart.
- Place your hands on the floor 6–8 inches in front of your feet and shoulder-distance apart. If your shoulders are tight, your hands can be a little wider.
- Come onto the balls of your feet and lift your hips high. Bring your knees toward your upper arms.
- Tilt your torso forward so that your shoulders fit between your knees.
- Firmly press your knees to your upper arms. You can balance them on your triceps for Crow or tuck them closer to your armpits for Crane.
- Continue to reach your chest forward until your elbows stack over your wrists and you feel your center of gravity shift.
- Lift your heels toward your buttocks. Your knees can either grip your outer shoulders or balance on your triceps.
- For Crane, press your arms as straight as possible while bringing your feet and buttocks toward each other.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths, then either release your feet to the floor.
- Warm up your wrists before you attempt these poses.
- Beginners tend to move into this pose by lifting their buttocks high away from their heels. Instead, try to keep yourself tucked tight, with your heels and buttocks close together.
- When you are ready to take your feet off the floor, push your upper arms against your shins and draw your inner groin into your pelvis to help you with the lift.
- Core strength helps. It might seem as though Crow and Crane require tremendous arm strength, but most of the work comes from your abdominals. As your abs grow stronger, you can rest less weight on the backs of your arms.
- Don’t rush the pose or quickly propel yourself forward hoping to find balance. Move slowly, finding your balance at every point.
- Pressing your arms into your knees and knees into arms will help you feel stable and strong.
- If your elbows splay out or your shoulders dip, practice moving from Plank to Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), keeping the elbows in and shoulders back away from your ears. This will strengthen the upper body and prepare you for Crane or Crow.
- Fear of falling can be a big hindrance to getting into Crane or Crow. It can help to put a folded blanket, bolster or cushion on the ground under your head while you’re learning this pose.
Variation: Crow with a block
Try putting a block under your feet to get some lift and create more space to play with the pose. Consider putting a blanket under your head for cushioning if you fall forward. Lift one leg at a time. Work toward lifting both legs.