Crane Pose Anatomy: Target the Right Muscles for Strength and Stability

Young woman practicing yoga's Crane Pose or Bakasana Pose, which requires a strong anatomy.

Crane Pose (Bakasana) is a challenging yoga arm balance that requires a lot of strength and focus. The pose is named after the crane, a bird known for its grace and balance. In Sanskrit, baka means crane and asana means pose. This pose is a great way to build arm and core strength while also improving balance and concentration. Knowing Crane Pose anatomy can help you target the right muscles to practice the pose effectively.

Benefits of Practicing Crane Pose

Yoga and lifestyle concept - Young blonde woman in white sportswear practicing yoga's Crane Pose or Bakasana.

Crane Pose may be difficult to master, but it is well worth the effort. It has many benefits beyond just building strength and balance. Here are some of the other benefits of this pose:

  1. Improves concentration: Holding Crane Pose requires a lot of focus and concentration, which can help to improve mental clarity and focus.
  2. Relieves stress: Practicing challenging yoga poses like Crane Pose can help to relieve stress and anxiety by calming the mind and focusing on the present moment.
  3. Builds confidence: Successfully holding Crane Pose can be a huge confidence booster, as it requires a lot of strength and determination.

Crane Pose and Anatomy: Which Muscles Are at Play?

To practice Crane Pose in yoga, we must recruit many muscles. The most obvious muscles being used are the arms, shoulders, and back. The triceps and biceps work together to hold the weight of the body, while the shoulders and back are engaged to keep the body lifted.

The core muscles are just as crucial for holding Crane Pose. The rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques all work together to help lift the legs off the ground and stabilize our balance. The hip flexors and gluteus muscles are also involved in the pose, as they help to lift the legs and maintain balance.

Young attractive woman practicing yoga practicing Mulabandhasana, The Root Lock Pose in full length, isolated over white studio background, which os good preparation for Crane Pose.

Engaging the pelvic floor muscles, as in Root Lock (Mula Bandha) is also important in creating a stable Crane Pose. Three major muscles make up the “sling” of the pelvic floor. This sling, which runs from the pubic bone to the tailbone and between the ischial tuberosities, supports the weight of the pelvic organs, among other things. Engaging the pelvic floor muscles and mula bandha can help to improve balance and stability in the pose.

Preparation for Crane Pose in Yoga: Mastering Crow Pose (Kakasana)

Side view portrait of young attractive woman practicing yoga, standing in Crow Pose or Kakasana Pose. This pose preps all the anatomy needed to practice Crane Pose.

Crow Pose (Kakasana) is a helpful preparation for attempting Crane Pose. Crow Pose is a foundational arm balance that helps to build the arm and core strength needed for Crane Pose. Here’s how to practice Crow Pose and use it to build strength for Crane Pose:

  1. Gather your props: a nonskid yoga mat, a folded blanket, and two yoga blocks (optional). 
  2. Place your folded blanket widthwise across your mat. Place your blocks nearby, where you can reach them if you use them.
  3. Begin in a squatting position with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Feel free to place your feet on yoga blocks at their lowest level instead of directly on the floor. This can give you the boost you may need to lift off the ground when the time comes.
  4. Place your hands on the ground in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Your fingertips should be touching the edge of the folded blanket. (The blanket can be a nice “crash pad” if you topple forward in Crow Pose.)
  5. Squeeze in on your shoulders with your knees to engage your abdominal core. 
  6. Shift your weight forward onto your hands and lift your hips up toward the sky. Keep your elbows hugged in toward your sides and your gaze forward.
  7. Slowly begin to shift your weight forward onto your hands, lifting your feet off the ground. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position—i.e., don’t throw your head back. Continue to engage your core by squeezing in on your shoulders with your knees.
  8. Hold for a few breaths and then release back down to the ground.

To build strength for Crane Pose, practice Crow Pose regularly and focus on engaging your core and arm muscles. Hold the pose for longer periods of time as you build strength and confidence. As you become more comfortable with Crow Pose, begin to shift your weight further forward and lift your feet higher off the ground.

Crane Pose and Anatomy: Practice Yoga Poses to Help Build Arm Strength

You need to have strong arms and shoulders to build the strength needed to include Crane Pose in your yoga practice. Here are other yoga poses you can do to build the necessary strength.

Plank Pose (Phalakasana): Strength Building Pose

Plank Pose is strong core prep or anatomy prep for Crane Pose.

  1. Start in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana). 
  2. With your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, step your feet back so that your body is in a straight plank. 
  3. If your hands and/or wrists are sensitive, feel free to practice this pose on your forearms. Interlace your fingers and place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Then step your feet back.
  4. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core and glutes. Take care not to lift the pelvis too high or to let it sag down. Your pelvis is in the most efficient position when you can feel your abdominal core muscles engaging.
  5. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position relative to your spine. Do not throw your head back. Keeping your head and neck neutral engages your hyoid bone, which helps your abdominal muscles give frontal support to your back.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): For Control and Strength

Woman in chaturanga pose, balancing on arms and legs with chest close to the ground

  1. From Plank Pose, lower your body down to the ground while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  2. Place your palms on the floor under your shoulders or chest with your middle fingers pointing straight ahead. 
  3. Turn your toes under.
  4. Push into the floor to lift your entire body up into a low Plank Pose with your elbows bent close into your sides.
  5. Stretch your heels back to engage your legs, and keep your head and neck in a neutral position so that the back of your neck is long.
  6. Hold for a few breaths and then push back up to Plank Pose.


Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana): Crane Pose Preparatory Inversion 

Dolphin Pose uses the many of the same muscles and is similar to Crane Pose Anatomy.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your forearms on the ground. Your forearms should be parallel and shoulder-width apart. Spread your palms and fingers, pointing your middle fingers forward.
  2. Lift your hips up and back, as if in a forearm Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Press your chest toward your thighs. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Building Core Strength: Bringing It Altogether for Crane Pose 

In addition to arm strength, you also need a strong core to hold Crane Pose. Here are some yoga poses that can be useful to help you strengthen your core:

Boat Pose (Navasana): Classic Core Strengthening Pose

Navasana or Boat Pose is an excellent Pose to practice to prepare for Crane Pose Anatomy and practice.

  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Feel free to stay here with your knees bent and feet slightly lifted.
  3. If you’d like a further challenge, straighten your legs and lift your arms parallel to the ground. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Plank Pose with Leg Lifts

Yogi in plank pose with one leg lifting in preparation to understanding Crane Pose anatomy that can help you build the right muscles.

  1. From Plank Pose (see above instructions), lift one leg off the ground and hold for a few breaths. 
  2. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side.

Side Plank Pose (Parsva Phalakasana): Weight Bearing Preparation

Young yogi model in white sportswear doing yoga's Side Plank Pose, Vasisthasana. Excellent prep for a similar arm balance pose anatomy, Crane Pose.

  1. From Plank Pose, shift your weight onto your left hand, turning so that your body is opening toward the left. 
  2. Stack your right foot on top of your left foot. Or, for greater stability, you can stagger your feet, shifting the top foot forward enough that you can place the inner ball of your foot and big toe on the floor.
  3. You can practice Side Plank Pose on your forearm if your hands and wrists are sensitive. In that case, start by lying on your left side. Lift up to support yourself on your forearm. Your forearm should be perpendicular to your body. Push down with your forearm to support the body to lift into a straight line.
  4. Whether you’re supporting yourself on your hand or on your forearm, focus on keeping your body in a straight line. Your hips should not sag down toward the floor or lift up too high.
  5. Lift your top arm toward the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Release the pose, resting on your side for a few breaths. Then practice your other side.

Developing Pelvic Floor Engagement for Crane Pose

Engaging the pelvic floor muscles and mula bandha is crucial for maintaining balance and stability in Crane Pose. Here are some practices you can do to develop this engagement and better understand the anatomy of Crane Pose.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana) with Mula Bandha

Chair Pose is a yoga pose that uses muscles and strength building similar to the anatomy developed in Crane Pose.

  1. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). 
  2. Tilt your pelvis forward, sending your tailbone back so that your knees bend. Lower your pelvis as if you are about to sit in a chair. 
  3. As you inhale, lift your arms overhead and engage your pelvic floor muscles with mula bandha. 
  4. Hold for a few breaths and then return to Mountain Pose.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana) with Pelvic Floor Engagement

Setu Bandha or Bridge Pose is also preparation for Yoga's challenging Crane Pose similar anatomy is utilized.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your knees forward, away from the pelvis, so that your pelvis begins to lift off the floor. Maintain this action throughout the pose. 
  3. Lift your hips up a bit more, extending the knees away from your pelvis. Engage your glutes and your pelvic floor muscles. 
  4. Hold for a few breaths and then release.

Fly Like a Crane: Mastering Crane Pose Anatomy

Crane Pose is a challenging but rewarding pose that requires strength, balance, and focus. By focusing on building arm and core strength, developing pelvic floor engagement, and practicing regularly, you can successfully hold this pose and experience its many benefits. Remember to always listen to your body and practice safely, and soon you’ll be flying like a graceful crane!

Charlotte Bell writer

Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products’ blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.

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