My very first yoga class, the teacher cued crow, and I watched a sea of yogis effortlessly float forward into the first arm balanced I'd ever seen with grace and ease that astounded me. From that moment, I knew I'd found a practice that would inspire me to continually grow, evolve, and strive for new accomplishments. Throughout my childhood, I'd struggled to stick with team sports, trying out soccer, tennis, bowling, and everything in between. No sport seemed to speak to me, and what it really boiled down to was that there were no goals they offered that lit the fire in me to continue. But the graceful dance of vinyasa flow did spark that flame- and specifically, the way experienced yogis floated in and out of arm balances as though they were weightless had me coming back to my mat with the hope that some day, I'd be able to fly, too.
Now, I'm not the world's most advanced arm balance practitioner, but I have found many ways to make accomplishing these poses easier. Today I'd like to share a few tips to mastering crow and beyond.
Above is a video with an exercise to not only develop arm strength (specifically in the biceps and triceps, which must be engaged in arm balances and beyond in yoga), but to practice engaging bandhas, or the energy locks within the body. To begin, you perform a tricep dip on two blocks at the highest setting with your legs straight out in front of you. Once you've pressed back up, you engage your mulha bandha float your legs underneath and behind you to find a high plank position on the blocks. From your plank, perform a chaturanga pushup and repeat the series of motions at the top of the press.
Once you've developed some strength and practiced engaging mulha bandha, you're ready to begin experimenting with bakasana crow! It's good to begin by addressing some common fears with this pose. If your fear is falling flat on your face, first, come to terms with the fact that this may happen- and that's okay! However, an exercise to address this is to start with a block underneath your forehead and practicing lifting your feet and hips up, eventually moving on to lifting your gaze and head as well. If you have trouble getting your hips high, however, you may try starting with your feet elevated on a block and rocking your weight forward until you can stabilize all your weight in your hands.
Once you're able to hold crow successfully, it's time to start challenging yourself! Try using a block to perform "Crow-Ups" by lifting a block between your feet up and down, focusing on engaging your core and energy locks.
The last crow trick I have up my sleeve is my personal favorite- "Crow-Taps"! While holding your crow, tap one foot down toward the opposite wrist, lift back up, and repeat. This is a great core-building exercise and will definitely test your stability.
With arm balances, as with all other aspects of yoga, practice is key! Don't let falling down keep you down, and always take the opportunity to grow and develop your practice. You never know when you might get that elusive pose you've been working on!