How to Learn Crow

For many people, bakasana or crow is the first inverted* arm balance they come across in yoga. It can take a while to master, but it feels amazing when you do.

Prerequisites & preparation

If you are new to arm balances and have more flexibility than strength, it’s worth trying bhujapidasana or utplutih. Bhujapidasana is also called shoulder pressing pose or insect pose, and utplutih means lifting up in lotus. I found both of those easier, and there’s no fear of falling on your head. Those can be your first way of testing whether you can support your body weight on your hands.

To do crow, you need a bit of hip flexibility. If you are struggling with malasana (garland pose) or even curling your knees into your chest, you might struggle with crow too.

Next, you will need some upper body and core strength. A good test for this is if you can comfortably hold chatturanga (four limbed staff pose). You’ll also need to be able to balance, but that is best acquired by practicing crow and finding your balance point there.

One part that sometimes gets forgotten is getting over the fear of falling on your face. You might not realize this, but it’s possible you’re not leaning nowhere near far enough forward. What helped me overcome this was using pillows or a mattress when I was practicing at home. In class my teacher would put a bolster in front of my face until the pose became more stable. I never actually fell, but it was useful for progress.

Another little tip is to wear something that covers your knees. Naked knees on arms can feel quite slippery in the beginning, especially if you’re sweaty. Eventually you’ll want to be able to hold it regardless, but no need to make it harder for yourself when you’re learning.

Some people also use blocks under their feet in the beginning; I didn’t find that particularly helpful, but you might want to try it.

Getting into the pose

Begin by squatting, hands flat on the floor shoulder-width apart. If possible, have your feet together. Your gaze should be in front of your hands. Don’t strain your neck or look around. While on tip toes, place your knees high onto the back of your arms; nearly into your armpits, if that is available to you. Another alternative is to place your knees closer to the elbows and more to the side of the arm.

Then, lean forward as far as you can with your tip toes still lightly on the floor. Slowly lift one foot up. The goal is that you should be leaning so far forward at this point that there is almost no weight in your other foot. Lifting it up should happen fairly naturally. It might take you weeks or months of practice to actually achieve this point, but with consistency you will get there. One both feet are in the air, raise them higher towards your bum and work on straightening your arms. Keep your gaze steady to avoid disrupting your balance.

More advanced versions or transitions

  • Straighten your arms into crane pose
  • Lift and straighten one leg into one-legged crow (eka pada bakasana)
  • Jumping back from crow into chatturanga
  • Crow into headstand and back
  • Side crow

Read about other arm balances and inversions here.

* Inversion is broadly defined as heart being higher than the head.

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