Crow pose (bakasana) is the entrance to more challenging arm balances. (Check out this video on my favorite way to get into the pose.)
When practicing crow pose, you need a few key elements:
- aware and educated hands
- cat back
- core and inner legs squeezing
- hip flexion
The combination of these four component parts will help you – and your students – get there!
I like to do a little hand education before doing an arm balance. Weight in the hand naturally falls to the outer wrist, so we need to get the weight more into the index mound. You can practice good hand engagement (aka “hasta bandha”) at any point in your sequence. Here’s my trick:
When you are on all fours, lift the heel of one hand up so just the knuckles are pressing down. Then use your other hand to grab onto that forearm and pull up. Against the resistance of the pull up, slowly lower the heel of the hand back down. This little manoeuvre will help you activate the forearms and distribute the weight evenly into the hands and fingers. It’s also a lot more work.
Try this “lift the heel of your hand” thing in other poses such as downward facing dog. It’s a great reminder for optimal hand weighting in bakasana.
Your back is not flat in crow pose, it’s rounded. Practice finding this shape in positions such as cat pose. Use the core to scoop in and up strongly.
Core and Inner Legs Squeezing
Squeezing the inner things activates the adductors, which are the mainline to activating the transverse abdominis, your deepest abdominal layer. Find the midline. Squeeze the feet together, the knees into the arms, and presto, the core will start to light up. Finding levity in the upper body starts with strength in the lower body.
Most people take this for granted, but to do crow, you have to get your knees outside your shoulders! This is some pretty serious hip flexion. Get the body used to this “snuggle action” through poses such as side angle (parsvakonasana), lizard, and squat (malasana).
Any arm balance can be done in a different configuration to gravity that will make it easier. Turn bakasana upside and do it on your back. Sit on your bum and do it by trying bent kneed navasana. These alternative versions of bakasana will 1. educate your students on the actions they need to get the pose without weight-bearing in the hands and 2. give them something hard to try as a peak pose if they can’t put weight on their hands for any reason.
Happy exploring! Let me know how it goes!