Bakasana, or crow pose, was my introduction to arm balances. At the time, I thought bakasana was all about the arm muscles. I’d precariously balance my knees on my knobby elbows, bend my arms, and hope for the best.
After a couple years or so practice, I began to notice how active my abdominal muscles were in the pose. The more I engaged those muscles in addition to my biceps, the more stable I became and the longer I was able to hold the pose.
In bakasana, your low abdominal muscles work to keep your thighs tucked into your chest, while your midsection contracts to keep you lifted and stable. Strength is required in the biceps and shoulders, yes, but your arms can only do much to keep you balanced in this pose; the core muscles prevent the shoulder and arm muscles from overcompensating and bearing all of your weight.
And so, before posting the tutorial for crow, I thought it’d be a good idea to introduce a few poses that will help you feel the muscles needed to remain in crow. These poses will also help you if you’re looking to move toward inversions like headstand, forearm stand, or handstand. I would have loved having this guide in my first couple of years trying crow — I probably could have avoided a lot of falling over!
1. Knee hovers
Come to all fours, with your toes tucked. Push down through your palms to avoid collapsing into the shoulder girdle. Raise the knees so that they hover about two or three inches above the mat. Hold for three breaths. Press the palms down and forward to activate the triceps; hold for the three breaths. Press the palms down and toward your feet to engage the muscles in your midsection; hold for three breaths. Return to all fours. Repeat the sequence four more times.
2. Handstand press prep
Stand with your feet two to two-and-a-half feet apart. Place your hands shoulder-width apart about six inches in front of your feet. Press your palms into the floor. Make firm contact with each knuckle, each fingertip, and the heel of your hand. Bringing more weight into the hands — particularly the fingertips — lift your heels and, if possible, come to the balls of your feet or your tiptoes. Lean forward so your shoulders move in front of your wrists; your low abs will naturally engage to keep you from falling over. Hold for ten breaths; repeat four more times, resting a few breaths between each hold.
3. Cross-body bicycle kicks.
Lie on your back. Bring your knees to ninety degrees with your shins raised and parallel with the floor. Place your fingers at the nape of your neck; open the elbows wide so your elbows are just in your peripheral vision. Straighten your right leg, hovering it a few inches above the floor. Bring your right elbow to your left knee — be careful not to move the knee, using instead the abdominal muscles to move your elbow toward the opposite knee. Switch sides. Complete 14 more on each side.
Add these exercises to your core workout rotation and use them to prepare for Wednesday’s bakasana tutorial! Namaste!