Bakasana (Crane with arms straight, or Crow with arms bent) is one of our most commonly taught arm balances, but that doesn’t make it easy. Unless you have built-in arm strength, it is quite the challenge to stand on your hands. If you do have an abundance of upper body strength, it is difficult to open up the chest and avoid over using the Upper Traps (the muscles that hunch the shoulders, using tension rather than muscular engagement).
We have broken down the posture with a few approachable prep postures (asanas) so that you can build the strength and flexibility to fly!
*Caution: If you are new to yoga, it is advisable that you try this pose under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher. Always check with your doctor before practicing if you are working through neck, shoulder, wrist injuries. REMEMBER TO BREATHE during the postures.
- Sit in a comfortable position. Scan the body, notice what is on the mind, be aware of your emotional state. Take a deep breath in through the nose, accepting all that is going on with you; Exhale through the mouth sighing out your opinions and judgements of these things. Take another breath like that, clearing out tension. Breathe in and out through the nose steadily, coming into the present moment, aware of your senses without developing an opinion about what you are sensing. Take about 8 more deep breaths in and out. Take a bow into you in honor of you. Keep your breath steady.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog, click title more more detailed description): Swing your legs behind you so that you are on hands and knees. Spread your fingers, ground the knuckle part of the palm, grip gently with the finger tips. Lift the knees and push the hips up and back. Adjust and move as needed to find a comfortable pose for you today, and settle in for 10 deep breaths (click for more details on adjusting for today).
3. Forearm Plank: Lower your knees at the same time on an inhale. Exhale and lower the forearms, elbows under shoulders. Bring the bottom tips of the shoulder blades toward each other on the back, engaging your lower traps, and push your chest gently and slightly forward. Pull the navel back. Push down through the hands, wrists, forearms and balls of the feet and lift the knees. Pull your elbows and toes toward one another for more abdominal engagement. Try to hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
4. Sphinx Pose: Finish your final exhale in Forearm Plank, then inhale and lower the hips to the floor and lengthen the chest forward. Widen through the collarbones. Keep the navel pulling gently away from the floor, and stretch through the inner legs. Push down firmly with the toenails and tops of the feet. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
5. Malasana Prep (Garland Pose): Lower for forehead to the floor, place your hands next to your chest and tuck your toes. Exhale engage the abdominals. Inhale and push the floor away and lift to hands and knees. Take a Downward Dog. Widen the feet to outer hips width and walk the hands back in between the feet. Turn the toes out about 45 degrees and lower the hips. If your heels pop up, prop them up on a rolled blanket/towel/pillow/bolster. Widen the collarbones with an inhale. Press the upper arms into the inner thighs and press the thighs back into the upper arms. Create resistance, strength, a connection to your center. Lengthen through the spine. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
6. Bakasana Prep: Lift your hips on an exhale, parallel your feet and fold in over your legs. Walk your feet together, big toes touching. Lower the hips with the knees close, then widen the knees once you are in a squat. The heels can lift or you can support them with a prop. Snuggle the ribs in between the thighs and round your mid-back like a Frightened Cat. Push the upper arms back under the shins. Squeeze the torso and arms with the thighs. Look forward and find a point to gaze steadily upon (Drishti). Pull the chest through the arms gently and widen the collarbones. Hold for 5 breaths. 10 breaths if you are stopping here.
7. Bakasana: Lift onto the balls of the feet and squeeze the toes together, knees in, forearms parallel. Lean forward (*keep looking forward and breathing steadily) until the weight shifts more onto the hands. Widen the chest again with an inhale. Exhale and pull the back ribs toward the sky and lift one or both feet off the floor. Keep squeezing in gently. Allow room for a full flow of breath. Keep your gaze steady. Try to stay in the pose for 5 breaths. 10 if you are familiar with the asana.
8. Keep looking forward and lower down the feet. Widen them and come back into Malasana for a few breaths. Step the feet back so you are again on hands and knees. Bring the big toes together, the knees together or outer hips width apart, sit on the heels. Lay the torso over the legs and relax the arms (Balasana). Rest here for as long as you need.
9. Finish the practice with Savasana (Corpse Pose). Rest in a comfortable laying down position for 5-10 minutes.
Check out our INSTAGRAM for more details themes on each of the poses, and a video.