The Elusive Crow Pose - 3 Fundamentals of Balance for 'Bakasana'

Balancing postures are inherently challenging. When adding in the fact that crow pose, or in sanskrit ‘bakasana’, is an inversion, this arm balance can seem extra daunting. Poses where the head is below the heart are considered inversions. We often tend to experience elevated heart rate and breath-holding in such positions, and crow pose is no exception. The physical postures of yoga, or asanas, can present just as much a mental challenge as a physical one.

Remembering that everyone’s body looks different therefore everyone’s practice will look different is important. Keep the curiosity in your movement as a chance to challenge and explore your body in relation to space. Focus on the feel of the posture, rather than anticipating how the posture should look. Teachers offering to demonstrate the pose while cueing can help encourage students to try different variations of crow pose. Play around to find the right customization or style for your own body. To overcome the mental hurdle crow pose presents, we will break down the posture step-by-step to give clear and concise directives.

The three main components of any balancing or inversion pose are foundation, core and gaze.

Foundation is key for balance and can often be affected by extraneous factors such as lighting and type of groundwork (hard floor vs. carpet, etc.), and also your use of breath. Working from the ground up can help a pose feel more approachable. For an arm balance like crow pose, start from a crouched position or a deep squat.


Set up your foundation with wide spread palms and engaged fingers, as well as eventually stacking your elbows over wrists . This stacking these joints helps create the stability needed to lift the lower portion of the body. Shoulders should feel stabilized. Play around with the placement of your hands. Personally, shoulder width distance apart works best for my own body, but you may find a better setup for yours.




 

Building on top of the foundation is the core. Utilizing the abs will help keep your body steady as well as hold weight. As the lower half of the body is heavier, core activation is integral to make sure our wrists aren’t the only thing bearing weight. Activation can look like knitting your front ribs together as if you were zipping up a corset. Pin your belly button towards your spine and arch or find a “cat-like” back. Rounding your back will help lift your weight when shifting forward.


Use your chaturanga arms to create ‘shelves’ with your triceps for your knees. Knee placement can vary from higher up towards the armpits to lower near the elbows. Try a couple ways to see what feels more stable for your body.


If you’re working on balancing, play around slowly leaning inward or rocking forward and lifting each leg up separately to see how it feels. Squeeze your arms and elbows inward and lift your back in unison.


Keep your hips lifted and bring your big toes to touch. Remember to recommit to your core activation! Eventually you may find there is more weight in the arms rather than feet, and you are balancing. This is also a great place to play around with the use of a block or other supporting props. Remember to keep breathing!



 

This leads to the final component — gaze. A helpful piece of advice I heard when I was initially learning crow pose was “the body will go where your eyes go’’. In Bakasana, look forward to keep your gaze out in front, as opposed to looking down between your legs. This will help direct the weight forward. Looking downward may cause the body to feel unstable and tumble forward.


Hearing this tip about gaze placement was a big “a-ha” moment for me.

Keeping your eyes a foot or more out in front of you can also reduce any added stress on the neck when bent downward. The idea of vision placement is especially important for balancing postures, but can sometimes be an afterthought. By honing the development of concentrated intention, one can help up-level their own practice and awareness.


 

Discussing the benefits of such a posture can also help students see the advantages. Building strength in the core and wrists as well as sharpening the skills to focus and improve your awareness of the body in relation to space is one of the biggest benefits of balancing postures.

Unlike riding a bike, balance is something that needs to be continuously revisited and worked towards in a lifelong manner.

Balance is not something we find, it is something we create. This concept of focus and control can be extended to other areas of the yogic practice as well.


Your yoga practice should feel empowering and energizing rather than defeatist and discouraging. Give yourself permission to try out a few different variations of crow pose releasing any expectation of an end goal. As crow pose is often one of the first balancing postures yogis are introduced to, remember to view this movement as a gratitude practice, which highlights the productive discomfort required for growth. A positive and accepting outlook can encourage trying other challenging postures. Yoga is for everybody and every body. Keep in mind that yoga is more than a physical practice.


Be kind to your body, be kind to your mind, and know that there is just as much growth in the movement as there is in the stillness.



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