Spring into Crow Pose

This powerful arm balance might seem intimidating at first, it doesn’t have to be daunting. Even if you’re new to yoga—or are an experienced practitioner coming back to the beginner’s mind—the following tips from Kripalu Yoga teacher Susannah Beattie can help you prepare for takeoff by building your Crow pose from the ground up.

Warm Up Your Engine

To begin, take a comfortable seat and focus on your breath. Root down through your sitz bones. Lift the crown of your head. Feel your entire body as you breathe. Let the breath harness your energy for the dynamic practice ahead of you. Notice the thoughts and sensations that arise. Is there excitement? Hesitancy? Eagerness? Whatever it is, simply sit, observe, and breathe.

After centering, Susannah suggests warming up with posture flows that target key areas relevant to Crow. For example, a few rounds of Cat/Cow to warm up the spine; Plank to strengthen the shoulders, stabilize the wrists, and enliven the core; Downward-Facing Dog to stretch and lengthen the back of the body; and a Pyramid-to-Lunge flow to release and open the hip flexors.

Unblock with Blocks

Props are handy tools to combat any trepidation that might materialize during your first attempts at going airborne. Blocks, in particular, can add a sense of security to bolster your confidence. Susannah recommends placing a block at any height a few feet in front on you, as a security blanket of sorts. Then come into a deep squat and press your knees strongly against the triceps. Rock back and forth, shifting your weight toward the hands, finding lightness in the toes, filling your body with breath. When you’re feeling secure, come forward and allow your forehead to rest on the block. This “pillow” action offers support as you work toward lifting the toes off the ground. If the feet don’t elevate right away, no problem—simply explore working with gravity, rocking back and forth.

Another suggestion from Susannah is to place a block or two underneath your feet, which gives you an extra lift to boost your takeoff.

Variations Are Your Friends

Trouble getting your knees to lock onto your triceps? Susannah offers a popular variation in which you press the inner knees to the outside of the upper arms instead, which could make the hugging action easier. Notice if this variation makes the pose more accessible. Yoga, after all, is a customizable, individual practice. Explore what works best for your body. Test-drive your options to help you take off.

Enlist Your Power Center

Gravity propels you forward in Crow, and core engagement holds you up. Awaken the low belly by drawing your navel in and up. This engages what Susannah refers to as the power center—your abdominals and back muscles— which gives you the strength to stretch your proverbial wings. Again, the key here is to play around and bring your awareness to your center. It doesn’t matter if you can sustain the pose for half a second or half a minute.

Cool It, Birdie

After you feel complete in your heat-building Crow practice, take time to cool down. Hug your knees into your chest, massage your low back on the mat, and move into a supine twist, releasing the belly and torso, allowing the hips to soften and the shoulders to melt. Complete the practice with a gentle landing: a few minutes in Savasana to let the benefits of your experience sink in.

Remember, Crow is a practice, and it takes time and patience: Experiment, play, laugh! Gather your props, muster up some courage, explore your curiosity, and see where your Crow pose can take you this spring. Have a nice flight!

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