Accomplishing Crow, or Bakasana, in yoga may be one of the first big milestones in anyone's yoga career. But the struggle is not over once you finally managed to get into the pose. The real challenge most practitioners face is maintaining this yoga pose for more than a few seconds.
"What if I fall?" "Oh but my darling, What if you fly?"
– Erin Hanson
In this article, you will learn how to avoid falling out of Crow in yoga:
1. How Do You Get Into Crow (Bakasana)?
- Start in a squatting position (Malasana). Stretch your arms forward and place your palms on the ground.
- Bend your arms as if you were practicing a Low Plank (Chaturanga).
- Bring your knees on your outer upper arms and lift on your tippy toes.
- To start, bring your elbows wide so that you can place your knees up high on your upper arms.
- Lean towards your fingers and point your toes. Create resistance with your finger tips.
- Hollow the body by pulling the ribs in and rounding the back.
- Squeeze the elbows and the knees in.
- Before you come into the pose, shift your bodyweight further forward first so that you have to grip the mat even more. Feel the strength of your upper arms activating.
- Instead of dropping the head to look backwards, lift the head forward just like a turtle that comes out of its shell.
- Keep leaning forward toward your fingers until your feet get light. You may want to lift the feet one by one. It's very important here that you engage your toes.
- Hollow again by pulling the ribs further in, i.e. hug the midline. Suck your belly in and bring your navel to the spine.
- Squeeze your knees against your upper arms and your upper arms against the knees.
- Bring your big toes to touch and, eventually, you can straighten your arms.
Now it's time for you to Master Your Crow. In this short video, Mathieu Boldron will lead you into Bakasana. He even created a whole sequence preparing your body for this challenging pose in a well-rounded yoga practice. So, roll out your yoga mat and watch the program on TINT.
One of the biggest obstacles to mastering that pose probably is your fear of falling over. Most practitioners are afraid of falling onto their heads when they attempt this yoga pose for the first time. To overcome that fear, there's a slightly different way to enter Bakasana in yoga:
- Put a blanket or pillow at the front of your mat.
- Come into Malasana and place your head on your cushioning first. Since the head is on the ground already, there is no risk of falling over.
- Lift your buttocks up and step your feet further in.
- Engage your feet and bring your knees onto your upper arms.
- Lift one leg up after the other and maintain the balance in this position first.
- Your forearms should be vertical here. Otherwise, you won't be able to balance this pose.
- From here, shift your bodyweight backwards so that you can slowly lift your head up. Move very slowly.
- Engage your toes and remember steps 11-13 above.
2. What Is Your Body Doing In Crow Pose?
2.1. What Are the Joints Doing?
Classified as a symmetrical balancing arm-support pose, Bakasana is a yoga pose where different parts of your spine perform different actions: While the cervical spine is extended, the thoracic and lumbar spine are flexed.
Let's take a look at the shoulders and arms: The scapulae are abducted and the shoulders are flexed and adducted. The elbows are flexed, but move toward extension. There is pronation in the forearms and dorsiflexion in the wrists.
Moving down to the lower limbs, we find the sacroiliac joint in nutation, which means that the sacrum moves separately from the pelvis so that the top of the sacrum nods forward and the bottom (near the coccyx) tilts backward. The hip is flexed and adducted and the knees are flexed as well.
2.2. Which Muscles Are Engaged?
To extend the cervical spine, the muscles at the back of your head, namely rectus capitis posterior and obliquus capitis superior, contract concentrically, whereas the psoas major and minor as well as the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the pelvic floor contract to flex the lumbar spine.
In the upper limbs, we see the following muscular actions:
- The serratus anterior in the ribcage as well as the chest muscles pectoralis major and minor contract concentrically to abduct the scapula.
- The rotator cuff muscles and the deltoid stabilize and protect the shoulder joint.
- The triceps brachii extend the elbow.
- The pronator quadratus and teres pronate the forearm.
- The intrinsic muscles of the wrists and hands contract to maintain the integrity of the hands.
Let's now have a look at the muscular actions in the lower limbs:
- The psoas major and the iliacus (the lateral portion of the iliopsoas) contract concentrically to flex the hip.
- The adductor muscles pectineus, adductor longus and adductor brevis are responsible for the hip adduction and flexion.
- The lower hamstrings contract to flex the knee.
The flexion of the thoracic spine, the abduction of the scapulae, and the extension of the cervical spine, which are performed simultaneously in Crow pose, require precision and strength in the spinal muscles because the cervical spine should extend without engaging the trapezius since this interferes with the action of the scapulae and arms.
It's also important to note that the knees initially widen to come into the pose. However, the final action of the legs is adduction to squeeze the knees into the upper arms or shoulders.
Understanding the actions the joints and muscles perform in a certain yoga pose, such as Bakasana, is essential to understanding proper alignment in your yoga practice. That's why we created a free yoga asana ebook for you, which summarizes most important alignment cues for 10 of the most common yoga poses so you can use it as a reference guide in your yoga practice.
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10 Yoga Asanas You May Have Been Doing Wrong
3. How Do You Hold Crow (Bakasana) For More Than 2 Seconds?
1. Keep Your Forearms Vertical
Most students fail to perform Crow in yoga because the forearms are not vertical. This means that the line of gravity is not going straight down into the ground. Besides, there is too much weight on your feet. From this position, it's impossible to lift yourself up into Bakasana without having to jump. As a result, you will fall either forward or backward since you don't have any control of your body.
So, if you want to succeed in performing Bakasana in yoga, bring your arms in a vertical line under your shoulders.
2. Keep The Neck In Line
A lot of students are afraid of falling forward onto their head when they practice Crow in yoga. This is why they may lift the head up to bring it as far away from the ground as possible. However, if you lift up your head, your buttocks will sink down. But for a proper Bakasana yoga pose, you need your buttocks to lift up.
So, maintain the natural curve of your neck so that it is in line with your spine and there are no wrinkles on the backside of your neck.
3. Lean Forward
To come into Bakasana yoga pose, bring your center of gravity towards your hands so that your buttocks can lift up. Create resistance with your fingers so that you feel your forearms engaging.
4. Push – Hollow – Pull
These three small words are the foundation of all arm balances:
- Push the ground away, round your back and spread your fingers.
- Hollow your stomach by pulling the navel up and in.
- Pull your thighs to your chest to engage your core.
Apply these steps once you're in the pose and you will be able to maintain it longer without falling out.
4. How Can You Adapt Crow Pose To Your Yoga Practice?
If you're new to Crow (Bakasana), fear may be your biggest obstacle and it might even seem impossible to fly. There are several options to facilitate access to this asana:
- If feel your abdominal muscles becoming tired, rest your shins on your upper arms by bending the elbows deeper and out to the side so that you can rest your body weight on the arms.
- If you start off with your hips a little higher, it becomes easier to use gravity to move forward into your arms. You could, for example, place a block under your feet before you take off from Malasana to give your body that little extra height.
- If the fear of falling over on your face is your biggest obstacle, you can put a pillow or a blanket in front of you until you get used to it. You will most certainly not need it, but at least it’s there!
- If you have difficulties lifting both feet up, start with raising one foot only at first, but try to only keep the big toe of your other foot on the floor. This will help you build strength and get an idea of the right technique.
- If you don't feel ready to come into Crow (Bakasana) yet, you can practice the shape of this asana on your back first in Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana). This is also a great way to warm up your back and hips and help them release.
- If you want to strengthen your upper body, wrists and core for Crow in yoga first, you can work up to it up by practicing Downward-Facing Dog, Chaturanga and different variations of Plank pose.
If the Bakasana yoga pose is old hat to you already, you can spice up your yoga practice with some extra challenges:
- Try to gradually straighten your arms until your elbows are completely flexed. This is properly called Crane pose. At the same time, you can also work on lifting the heels further up towards your sitting bones.
- Another fun practice is jumping back into Chaturanga. Once you've mastered that, you could even try to jump into Crow pose from Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
- Transitioning from Crow pose to Tripod Headstand (Salamba Sirasana II) and back can also be a fun way to challenge yourself during your yoga practice.
- Crow, or Bakasana, is the gateway to other arm-balancing asanas such as Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana), Dragonfly (Maksikanagasana), or Firefly (Tittibhasana). So, move one step further if you feel ready!
Although it may seem impossible, with consistent practice and patience you will gain the physical and mental strength that is required to lift your feet off the ground. Even the most experienced yogis had to face the fears and challenges that emerge when practicing Bakasana in yoga. And they fell, too, when learning this asana. Try not to get frustrated but continue practicing. Crow (Bakasana) pose might be difficult at first, but your confidence will grow with the necessary dedication – until you'll eventually be able to fly!
Arm-balancing is challenging at first, but will become accessible once you've understood what to pay attention to when it comes to your alignment. This is why understanding the core principles of correct yoga alignment is the key to mastering challenging asanas like arm balances. To help you with this and other yoga poses, we have created a free yoga asana ebook that you can download for free and use as a reference guide for your yoga practice.
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10 Yoga Asanas You May Have Been Doing Wrong
5. What Are the Benefits of Crow (Bakasana) in Yoga?
Bakasana is a yoga pose that strengthens the shoulders, the upper arms, the forearms, and the wrists. In addition to that, it also strengthens and tones the core muscles and the abdominal organs.
Crow also is a great yoga pose to mobilize and stretch the upper back and the groins. It also increases the flexibility and elasticity of the spine and helps you improve your balance and full-body coordination.
However, this arm-balancing asana does not only make you stronger on a physical level, it can also help you increase confidence and self-awareness. This is because getting over the fear of falling forward on your face requires you to move slowly and focus on the present moment. This focus will calm your mind and can help reduce anxiety and everyday stress and may leave you with a feeling of calmness and self-assurance.
In order to master Crow pose, you will have to create a better mind-body connection and will therefore gain greater body awareness. This asana provides a perfect balance of accepting your fears and embracing courage.
Once you've managed to accomplish Bakasana in yoga, you will feel that it looks scarier than it actually is – leaving you with a real boost to your self-confidence.
So, be brave and accept the challenges Crow (Bakasana) offers you. There are several programs on TINT to guide you along your journey to learn how to fly. Start, for example, with Matt Giordano's Essentials of Arm Balances and work yourself up step by step to Master Your Crow with Mathieu Boldron. As a next step, you can even try to Master Your Twisting Arm Balances. If you're up for a little challenge, try the Firefly Crow Fusion in Alexandra Harfield's Dips, Binds & Balances.
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10 Yoga Asanas You May Have Been Doing Wrong