Bakasana is one of those asani that looks impossible until you actually do it.
“You want me to put my knees where and balance on my what?” we think with dismay.
But with just a few steps, you two can begin to find the effortless flight that characterizes this arm balance. And the key lies in finding your core. The gateway to the core? Your inner thighs. Very simply, by using your adductors (the muscles that allow you to squeeze your legs together), you begin to activate your core – namely your transverse abdominis. Once this engagement starts, you are on your way to flight.
Finding the Adductors
To find the adductors, try “scissoring” your legs together in poses such as lunge, virabhadrasana I, parsvottanasana, and other neutral-legged postures. This scissoring action will help “square” your hips, create a sense of buoyancy through the pelvic floor, and add stability to your posture. Another great way to find the adductors is to bring a block between your feet or your inner thighs and squeeze – presto! Instant adductor action.
Here’s a good sequence to help you find your core:
-Place a block on medium width between your thighs and stand in tadasana (it’s okay, your feet will be under your hips)
-Inhale arms up into urdhva hastasana (squeeze the block)
-Exhale uttanasana (squeeze the block)
-Inhale halfway (squeeze the block)
-Exhale uttanasana (squeeze the block)
-Inhale urdhva hastasana/ arms up (squeeze the block)
-Exhale tadasasna (squeeze the block)
You get the idea? You can do a whole sun salutation with the block by jumping (with your knees bent) into down dog and moving through the vinyasa from there. Holding plank or forearm plank with the block between the upper thighs can change the dynamic of the posture by encouraging the activation of the legs and the core. When the legs start working for you, the pose becomes easier on the arms and the wrists.
It’s All in the Shape
The shape of the back in bakasana is similar to that in an arching cat. When many of us start to come into bakasana, we flatten out the spine, which actually makes is more difficult to engage the abdominals. Also, instead of trying to balance the knees in the armpit, instead, clamp the knees onto the outer upper arms. This clamping action allows you to find the inner thighs, which has a trickle up effect to the pelvic floor and abdominals, giving you lift.
Poses to find the rounding of the back aren’t common in yoga, as we tend to work toward a straight spine. However, here are a few that can help:
-The cat part of cat/cow
-Garudasana (Eagle), if you hinge from hips and round the back
-Arching cat in downward dog. To do this, come into downward dog. Extend one leg back. Shift your shoulders over your wrists (a la plank). Draw your knee to your nose, press into your hands, and round your spine toward the ceiling. Stretch the leg back into three-legged dog and repeat a few times.
Doing the Pose
My favorite way of doing bakasana is to start with the feet together on a block.
-Place your feet on the block and widen your knees.
-Place your hands on the floor shoulder distance apart and spread your fingers wide. Claw the fingers into the floor so that you are distributing your weight through the whole hand and not just bearing down through the wrist
-Hunker down and clamp your knees onto your arms as high up as you can. Squeeze. Feel your adductors fire up.
-Begin to shift your weight forward off the block and into your hands
-As you shift, keep your tailbone reaching down so that you your spine is round and not flat, scooping your abdominals up
-Bring one foot off the block, maybe both. If you have both, then squeeze the sides of your feet together, lift your addominals up, and straighten your arms
-Come down by bringing one foot to the block and then the other.
If you felt your adductors firing and your back rounding, then you are on the right path!
Bakasana is a great pose for the wintery months, when we feel as if our inner furnace is a bit dimmed.
Cat/Cow (focus on rounding of spine)
Cat/Cow – add leg extension and knee to nose
Extended child’s pose
Cat/Cow in Downward Dog (students have option to return to easier version on their knees if necessary)
Low lunge (scissor legs and fire adductors)
Forearm plank (do forearm plank rather than plank to preserve the wrists for later)
Repeat on other side
Sun Salutation with block between inner thighs or feet 3-5 times
Eagle with forward fold to round spine
Surya B (focus on adductors) 1-3 times
Surya B to downward dog, step into lunge, parivrtta parsvakonasana (revolved side angle) – Both sides
Parsvottanasna (Pyramid pose)
Malasana (squat) – squeeze inner thighs in
Bakasana (as described above)
Table or purvottanasana to release front of body
Upavista Konasana (wide-legged forward fold) to release inner thighs
Baddha Konasana (cobbler’s pose)
Maricyasana C (seated twist)
Pascimottanasna (seated forward fold)
onto back: Reclined Ankle to Knee