yoga student practicing bakasana kakasana crow pose

Yoga Arm Balancing Magic: 4 Empowering Crow Pose Variations

By: 
Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Crow Pose, or Bakasana, is one of those yoga party trick poses. It’s a majestic arm balance that challenges us to face our fears, builds strength, and helps us find balance. 

And while learning everything there is to know about activating the core or exploring the many dimensions of alignment in this shape is great, the one thing that will really get us to practice Crow Pose with ease is simply the confidence to actually do it! And that means the confidence to be able to enter the pose. 

4 Fun, Confidence-Building Crow Pose Variations 

Playing with props can be an excellent way to enter Crow Pose with the confidence needed to master the posture. So, here are four different entrance routes into Bakasana to get you feeling ready to conquer this challenging shape:

1. Lie Down

Crow Pose, Bakasana, Variation of the pose, Lay down, engage the core, turning the pose upside down, yoga practice tips

Crow Pose is challenging for a great many reasons, but one of the biggest challenges for most in Crow Pose is the amount of weight that the shoulders, arms, and wrists need to bear. So how can you solve this issue? Flip the whole pose upside down to work the same muscle groups with a different orientation to gravity! 

  1. Start lying down on your back. 

  2. Hug your knees in toward your chest. 

  3. Stretch your arms up toward the sky and flex your wrists as if you’re pressing your hands into the ceiling. Spread your fingers wide. 

  4. Engage your core, draw your navel toward your spine, and round your back. 

  5. Draw your knees as high up your arms as you can reach or wiggle them into your armpits.

  6. Squeeze your thighs in against your arms and use the same amount of energy to press your arms back out against your thighs. 

  7. Hug your heels in toward your sit bones. 

  8. Look up toward the ceiling and neutralize your neck. 

  9. Lift your head and chest up away from the floor. 

  10. Hold for a few long, deep breaths before releasing. 

2. Lean on Me

Crow Pose, Bakasana, Variation of the pose, lean on, engage the core, turning the pose upside down, yoga practice tips

Blocks are magical props that come in handy for just about any pose. They’re especially great for Crow Pose to give you a helping hand because we all need somebody (or something) to lean on!

  1. Place a block on its highest height, in front of you at the top of your mat. 

  2. Lower down into a squat with your legs together. 

  3. Plant your palms roughly shoulder-width apart, slightly behind your block, to create a tripod shape between your hands and your block.

  4. Activate Hasta Bandha (Hand Lock): Spread your fingers wide and space them evenly apart. Grip at the mat with your fingertips and imagine the center of your palm lifting away from the floor like a suction cup. Press firmly into the perimeter of your hands. 

  5. Keep your knees bent deeply and lift your hips high. 

  6. Spread your knees apart from each other. 

  7. Bend your elbows deeply and create a Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) shape in your arms. Point your elbows straight back behind you and gently hug your arms into the midline of your body. 

  8. Slide your knees as high up your arm as you can reach or even burrow them into your armpits. Energetically hug your legs into the midline of your body. 

  9. Lean your weight forward and release your forehead onto the block in front of you. Press your forehead down into the block and use this stable point of contact to allow you to lean even further forward until your legs naturally lift from the floor. 

  10. Squeeze your arms and your legs toward each other. 

  11. Round your back and strongly activate your core. 

  12. Lift your hips high and hug your heels toward your seat. 

  13. Hold for as long as you’d like before slowly releasing your legs down and lifting your head off the block. 

3. Find a Perch

Crow Pose, Bakasana, Variation of the pose, Find a Perch, engage the core, yoga practice tips

Drawing the ground closer toward you and staring from a higher perch can be super helpful for many practitioners to find the necessary lift in the hips to master Crow Pose. 

  1. Place a block on any height setting you would like in the middle of your mat, parallel to the short edge. 

  2. Step onto the block and rise to the balls of your feet. 

  3. Bend your knees until you can plant your palms on the floor, roughly shoulders-distance apart. 

  4. Activate Hasta Bandha. 

  5. Integrate your core. 

  6. Bend your elbows and create a Chaturanga-shaped shelf to either rest your knees on top of or to squeeze your knees around your outer upper arms. 

  7. Round your back deeply, look forward and lean forward. 

  8. Lift one foot off the block and squeeze your heel toward your seat. 

  9. Lower your foot and lift the opposite. 

  10. If it feels appropriate, lean forward until your legs become light and you can easily float them off of the block to squeeze in toward your glutes. 

  11. Hold for as long as you’d like before slowly releasing your feet back down to the block. 

4. Kick Your Feet Up

Crow Pose, Bakasana, Variation of the pose, Kick your feet up, engage the core, yoga practice tips

Walls are some of the best yoga props out there because they’re accessible to everyone. No matter what props you may or may not have, you definitely have access to a wall somewhere. So utilize it!

  1. Set up your mat parallel and next to a wall. 

  2. Use any of the previous props that you wish. You may want to place a block to rest your forehead on or you may wish to place a block to perch your feet on top of. 

  3. Sink into a squat with your legs together and your back facing the wall behind you. 

  4. Plant your palms shoulder-width apart and engage Hasta Bandha. 

  5. Lift your hips high and round your back deeply. 

  6. Spread your knees apart and bend your elbows. 

  7. Slide your knees as high up your arms as you can reach and hug into the midline of your body. 

  8. Look forward and lean your weight forward. 

  9. Slowly start to walk your feet up the wall behind you as little or as much as you’d like. 

  10. Hold for as long as you wish, and when you’re ready, slowly slide your feet back down the wall to release. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Play With Crow Pose!

Just because Crow Pose is a challenging posture doesn’t mean that it’s inaccessible to you. There are so many ways to enter every posture in the entire yogic repertoire, and Crow Pose is no exception. 

Hopefully, you feel empowered by one of these variations of Crow Pose to find a sense of playfulness on your mat to attempt to rock Crow Pose with confidence! 

After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Or better yet, what’s the best that could happen? 

 

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.