Friends, I hear you. That moment in class when the teacher invites everyone to squat and says, ‘And if you have Bakasana (crow pose), take it.’ Meanwhile, you’re sitting there slack-jawed watching everyone around you effortlessly balance their entire body ON THEIR ARMS. (On a side note: yoga is really weird, isn’t it?)
Well those people who make it look effortless? It’s because they’ve put in hours and hours of practice. That’s the thing when it comes to the harder yoga poses: there is no big secret, it’s just repetition, repetition, repetition.
Bakasana is essentially a squat positioned on top of chaturanga, so work on getting both of those strong and you’re halfway there. These are the drills that really helped me learn the balance, and when I share them in class with students, they too begin to find a bit of air time in the pose.
Make sure you’re warm before you try this pose: a few rounds of sun salutations should do the trick. Good luck, and let me know how you get on!
A great pose to isolate and strengthen core. Start lying on your back. Bring your hands into prayer at heart centre, draw in your navel, then lift the chest and legs off the floor a couple of inches, so you feel a sense of ‘hollowing’ in your midsection. Hold for a couple of breaths, release, repeat. Exhale to lower, inhale to lift.
Can't do the pose on your hands yet? Train it on your back! Lie on your mat, draw your knees in towards your chest, then open the knees wide but keep the feet and ankles touching. Curl your shoulders and upper back off the mat, keeping low belly engaged, and reach your arms forwards over your shins. Hold for 5 breaths, rest, and repeat as many times as you have energy for!
Bakasana requires strong hip flexors, so Navasana it is. Come to seated, then with your legs bent, lift them to make a V-shape with your body. Hold onto the backs of the thighs and focus on drawing your navel in and up, and at the same time lift up and out of your lower back. I like to imagine a piece of string is drawing my chest up to the sky. To progress the pose, let go of the thighs while keeping knees bent, working towards extending the legs fully.
A brilliant way to build upper-body strength, and the foundation of the entire bakasana family. Come onto all fours, then move your knees back an inch. Keeping your body in one straight line, bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the floor before pushing back up again. Make sure you hug the elbows in towards your ribs to engage your triceps. Try three rounds of five reps. Once you feel strong here, try it with the knees lifted, so your hips and shoulders are in line as you lower. If you start to collapse in your lower back (or feel any pain), go back to working with the knees down. This is a hard posture and takes time, so be patient.
From standing, bring your legs hip-width apart (I actually like to go mat-width, but explore what feels best for your body), turn toes out slightly, then sink your hips down towards the ground. If the heels lift, prop a cushion or rolled up blanket under them for support. Bring the hands to prayer, and use the elbows to ease the inner thighs open while lifting the chest. Allow the lower back to soften towards the ground. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
And finally… Bakasana!
From malasana squat, bring the legs and feet together. Turn toes out slightly to open the knees. Place the hands just in front of you, shoulder-width apart, spreading fingers wide. Snuggle the knees into the backs of the arms, so the triceps create a shelf. Next, lift your hips, bend your elbows and start to shift your weight forwards. Play with lifting one foot, then the other, then maybe both.
Look forwards, not down, otherwise that’s where you’ll want to go!
Squeeze the big toes together to activate pelvic floor and core
Hug the elbows towards one another to create a strong shelf-like structure
Press through forefinger, fourth finger and thumb
Place blocks under your feet to feel the elevation of the pelvis and actions of the pose, then play with lifting one foot at a time and build strength and trust
Place a cushion in front of your face, just in case!