Bakasana (Crow Pose) is hands down (and tail feather up) one of my all time favorite poses. I'm a firm believer that once a student fully understands this pose, all the other balances will begin to make sense and blossom. Crow is one of the most commonly offered arm balances and for that reason one of the least instructed. 'Bakasana' is often called out without any advice on getting in, so I'm hoping this break-down will make you more eager to give it a whirl in class verses sitting there in a squat watching the surrounding action.
Every single one of us has this pose somewhere within us. While muscular strength is always useful, the key is to understand and feel the structure of the pose. Let's not forget it's a mental adventure to tell ourselves it's OK to go into a pose where our precious and lovely faces are in danger of slamming into the ground (seriously, you're not very far from the ground. Doesn't hurt much). So, suit up into your adventurous crow suit and practice taking flight! You'll be sailing in no time.
Step One: Take a Nap. . .
Where better to start then lying on our backs! Hug the knees into the chest, wrapping into a tiny little package. Lift the forehead towards the knees. Stay compact but reach the hands to the pinky edges of the feet and grab hold. Separate the knees hip width apart and try to pinch your ears with the knees. If that goes well, try to box your ears. Keep this huge lift in the chest then reach the arms straight up towards the ceiling bringing the arms to the inside of the knees. Flex the hands. This is Crow Pose on your back (or taking an abdominally strong nap).
Step Two: Yawn and Stretch. . .
Come into a low squat with the inner heels and big toes touching. Balancing on the balls of the feet, open the knees hip width and take the arms through and to the ground. Walk the hands out dropping the chest and head towards the ground. Counter this action by drawing the tailbone down to create a long arch in the spine. The heels may or may not touch the ground depending on your Achilles' heel. If the head comes to the ground, lightly rest it there and take 8 deep breaths. Stay here to enter step four OR grab a block and set up for Step 3.
Step Three: Hop on Your Perch. . .
One of the hardest parts of Bakasana is getting over our fear of falling on our face. The block is a nice safety blanket to get us ready for flight. Place a yoga block in front of you on the lowest level. Step up onto the perch with the inner edges of the feet touching. Separate the knees hips distance and place the palms flat, shoulder width onto the mat. Walk the hands back and lift your tail feather (bottom). Shift the elbows directly over the heels of the hands and keep the gaze forward. Come high onto the balls of the feet and round the upper back. Stay here or practice lifting one foot at a time towards the bottom. With time and confidence, practice lifting both.
Step Four: Test Drive. . .
Start in a low squat balancing on the balls of the feet with the big toes and inner heels touching. Separate the knees wide and walk the arms forward like we did in Step 2. Stay low but walk the hands back in, wrapping the inner knees around the upper outer arms. Give the arms a solid hug with the knees. Keep this grip but lift the bottom. Bend the elbows and firm the forearms in (very important step. Arm balances are hard because we bear our body weight on the arms, which makes them buckle. Prevent this by firming to the midline to create height and support). Shift the elbows over the heels of the hands and lift one foot to the bottom. Follow by lifting the second as well. Keep the gaze forward of the finger tips. Find a huge rounding in the upper body, keep the forearms firming into the midline and a soft, easy breath. Enter Step 5 from here or come down and rest.
Step Five: Enjoy the View!
Follow Step 4. Exaggerate the rounding in the upper back and start to push the ground away. Keep rooting into the heels of the hands as the forearms and triceps firm inward. Draw the heels tight to the bottom. Keep this pushing action until your arms become straight or as straight as they're going to go. Always think in before up. Find your core and center strength, then push down to get height.