Challenge Pose: Bakasana

straight arm bakasana.JPG


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. . .

sleepy crow.JPG
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. . .
malasana.JPG
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. . .
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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. . .
bent arm.JPG
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!
straight arm bakasana.JPG

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. 

15 responses to “Challenge Pose: Bakasana”

  1. Hanna

    Okay, this may be too specific a question, but I always avoid crow because I have a weak left wrist — specifically, not quite carpal tunnel but very very close. Are there further modifications I should follow or…? Any thoughts welcomed?

  2. Michele A.

    I’ve been practicing yoga for only 4 months now, about 3-4 times a week – and just FINALLY got my toes up to touch! I used to laugh to myself whenever my instructors would say, “Now, if you have crow pose in your practice…” But – now I can honestly say that I DO have crow pose in my practice! I think the best piece of advice is to keep your gaze out in front of you…

  3. Kathryn Budig

    @hanna, have you ever used a wedge? ask your studio if they have one, it’s just a long wedge shaped block to take some of the pressure out of the wrist joint. that could be a good start. i used to use an ACE bandage when my wrists would bother me for extra support.

  4. Roger

    Ahhh…I’m not getting my knees up high enough on my arms! Didn’t think to use a block. Thanks!

  5. shashi

    I would like to point a minor error. The word ‘baka-aasana’ बकासन) is a Sanskrit word formed from ‘baka’ + ‘aasana’. The word ‘baka’ (बक) means crane.
    The root word is ‘vanka’ वङ्क) which means crooked. The crane is crooked in its design that is stands on one leg tricking the fish and suddenly swooping n on them.
    A river’s bend is also called ‘vanka’, for its non-straight nature.
    It should not be called crow pose at all. It is the crane pose.
    For many such wonderful discussions on words, please checkout the Practical Sanskrit page, where this was discussed some months back.

  6. Michele A.

    I did notice that all my yoga books call this Crane Pose – however, all my yoga instructors call this Crow Pose… hmmm….. :D

  7. Monique

    In my teacher training, I was taught that Crane is the full pose with straight arms. We used Crow to refer to its baby sister: the beginnings of Crane, but with bent arms and a lower center of gravity.

  8. Eden Yoga Blackrock

    Thank you for this. I like working into the pose on your back first.
    I’m gonna use it with my yoga students tonight. Thanks again!

  9. Eden Yoga Blackrock

    Thank you for this. I like working into the pose on your back first.
    I’m gonna use it with my yoga students tonight. Thanks again!

  10. Eden Yoga Blackrock

    Thank you for this. I like working into the pose on your back first.
    I’m gonna use it with my yoga students tonight. Thanks again!

  11. Kelly

    I have elbows (knees, fingers, toes, …) that hyper extend. I’ve been a yoga girl for years but always have fear in crow, crane, side plank and handstands that my elbows will turn so I keep slight bends in them which prevent me from getting the height and stability of my fellow yogis. Any tips?

  12. Mary Kay Donovan

    I have been trying to do this pose right for a long time. Last year when I finally
    was getting there, I had a torn meniscus repaired (not from yoga). Since that
    knee has been difficult for some poses, I am hoping i will be able to get back
    into it. Any suggestions re this pose or others while this knee is still healing?
    Namaste, Mary Kay

  13. alarmes

    I want to start practicing yoga. What do i need for start?

  14. alarmes
  15. yoga e-books

    Many yoga classes are out there, and you may be turned off if you pick one that does not suit your personality and state of physical fitness. For most beginners, a hatha or vinyasa class will be most appropriate, depending on whether you want a slow or fast-paced class. These are basic styles, and you can always try something fancier later.