Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Join Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Carrie Owerko for our new online course Iyengar 201—a mindful and fun journey into a more advanced practice. You’ll learn different pose modifications and the creative use of props, all designed to help you work with physical and mental challenges. And you’ll walk away with the skills you need to adapt to whatever life throws at you, on and off the mat. Sign up now.
Props are wonderful tools that can help make poses more accessible and awaken and bring intelligence and awareness to parts of the body that might seem dull or tense. However, we don’t want to be overly dependent upon props. In some instances, it’s more fun, exciting, and challenging to explore our body’s capacity to do certain poses without them.
Eka Pada Bakasana II (One-Legged Crane Pose II) is a great pose for more experienced practitioners, as well as those who are just beginning to work on arm balances. It’s wonderful for igniting your core, improving the stability and mobility in your legs, hips, shoulders and spine, and for elongating and stretching the muscles of the back of the body. And it’s just plain fun.
In my upcoming Iyengar 201 course, we will practice Eka Pada Bakasana II without props and play with a novel approach into the pose. In Iyengar Yoga, this pose is typically approached from Sirsasana II (Tripod Headstand), which can be difficult for many people. Below (and in the course), we will explore a way of entering the pose from the ground. Students who are not yet able to get all the way up onto their arms can practice the stage of the pose that allows them to experience the weight of their leg on their arm without having to bear the entire weight of the body on their arms.
Exploring this novel approach to the pose will help you gain flexibility and strength. You will also come away with a better understanding of the sense of direction of the pose, or how your body is relating to the environment. Focusing on the sense of direction keeps you involved in the process of how to move into and out of a pose without being overly concerned with the shape (or product) of the pose. It is about process versus product.
See also Iyengar Yoga
A New Approach to One-Legged Crane Pose II
From a kneeling position, take your left leg forward into a Low Lunge. Place your hands on the floor just inside of your left knee. Take a few breaths.
Insert your left shoulder behind your left knee, and place your left hand on the floor, just outside of the left leg. Take another breath. Place both hands on the floor just outside of your legs, as I am about to do in this shot.
Exhale and shift your weight backward (sit back), so you can lift your left foot off of the floor.
Tuck the toes of your right foot under and with an exhalation, lift your right knee off the floor.
Exhale as you swing your right knee to the side and place your right shin (just below the knee) onto the back of your right arm.
See also 5 Tips to Improve Your Arm Balances
Exhale as you shift forward and lift the right foot off of the floor. Squeeze both legs into your arms as you attempt to broaden your collarbones, shoulder blades, and back ribs. Try to straighten your left leg and both of your arms as much as possible. Keep your breath flowing. Even though this is a “bird” pose, I like to imagine that I am a jockey taking a buoyant ride on a horse when I am in this pose. Explore and see what image might help you hitch a ride on your arms.
See also Iyengar 201 now.