Learning Yoga: Crow Pose

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Though I love the simple peace of folding into chair pose or expanding into camel pose, I wanted to challenge myself with a position that I felt I could never achieve: crow pose, or Kakasana.

Though crow pose is the easier, baby-step version of crane pose, or Bakasana, it still terrified me to think of lifting both feet off the floor and supporting my body weight with only my arms. I envisioned myself toppling forward and slamming my face into my yoga mat. Bloody nose. Broken glasses. A few brain cells missing from banging my head. But I managed to overcome my fear by starting slow, practicing often, and gleaning a surprising nugget of hope from a Jillian Michael’s yoga dvd I decided to try.

The first step to crow pose is to assume cow pose, as shown below. Sometimes this is referred to as “tabletop” position. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders, with your elbows and wrists in line. Your knees should be bent and set into the floor below your hips. Lift your head and let your belly sink to the ground slightly. Take several deep breaths, elongating your spine and making sure your hands remain stable against the ground, fingers spread wide.

Cat Pose yoga

So far, so good. Without moving your hands, step forward one leg at a time until you’ve gotten into a crouching position. You should rest on the balls of your feet with your heels raised. Your knees should be touching the outside of your arms. If this were crane pose, the knees would be closer to or in the armpits, but because this is crow, we’re going to take it slower and easier and keep the knees just above the elbows. Remember that your weight should still remain evenly distributed between your arms and your legs.

yoga

The next part, below, is where I always started to feel a little anxious. Lean your body forward, bending your arms at the elbows and shifting your weight into your hands. Both feet should remain on the ground, but they should start to feel lighter as you put the brunt of the effort into your arms and shoulders. I’ve found that it’s helpful to focus on your breath, feeling every inhale and exhale moving through your body, in order to take your mind off of the fear.

yoga crow

In this pose, try lifting your right foot off the ground, using the left foot to help you maintain your balance. Then switch legs and lift the left foot off the ground, keeping your right foot on the floor. Shift between the two a couple of times until you get used to the heaviness in your arms and the (terrifying) feeling of your feet being suspended in the air. For a long time, this was as far as I could get, raising one foot in the air, weight in my hands, but unable to lift my other foot from the ground.

Then, Jillian Michaels said something in her yoga dvd that gave me a boost of confidence: although you need arm strength to complete this pose, you also need core strength, and if you put the effort into your core, you won’t topple over. I knew that my core strength had improved through daily planks and from practicing yoga positions like boat pose. So, I focused all of my energy on my core muscles, and I slowly lifted my second foot from the ground. To my surprise, I didn’t fall over—and, in an instant, my fear dissipated.

PICT_20150120_103158I’m still working on this pose. You can see by the slight blurriness in the photo above that I’m not completely stable. I’ll readily admit that I collapsed to the ground a few seconds after taking this picture and that I need lots more practice if I ever hope to master this pose.

But I never gave up on trying to overcome my fear, and I think that’s an important lesson for me to have learned. That’s why I want to share it with all of you. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, whether in yoga or in life, just keep pushing and keep believing that you can overcome any obstacle that stands in your way, even if it’s your own fear holding you back.

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