I had a conversation with my Dad recently and he commented on an Instagram shot I posted of me doing a handstand. He said he could NEVER do a handstand, and I realised I said exactly the same thing just a few years ago (and I’m still working on it). It got me thinking, on instagram and other social media yogi’s are very quick to post the amazing poses they have found (because they’ve worked hard at them and want to show the world the amazing things they have accomplished), but we often miss the progression, the work, the thousands of times we didn’t get the pose. Those beginning their journey in yoga then miss out on the lessons learned, and can often feel frustrated that they’re not at “instagram-worthy” arm balances yet (I know I do!).
Talking that over with my wonderful boyfriend Matt, we came up with the idea of “path to the pose” – a series of pictures showing the progression to and prep for a particular pose, aimed at anyone from advanced yogi’s looking to get back to basics to the never-stepped-foot-on-a-yoga-mat’s just looking to improve strength and flexibility.
Where to start? One of the most common poses beginners and intermediates work towards is crow pose or bakasana. And guess what? It’s All. About. Fear. This pose isn’t about upper body strength, it’s about zipping up from head to toe and pivoting over your arms to find that balance sweet spot. This week on my instagram @truenorthyogini I went through how I found crow pose, and how you can do it too (and if you’re not a yogi, it’s a fun party trick). I brought together my steps, preps and advice here!
Crow pose is about using allll your muscles to lift up out of your hands, especially engaging your core to lift your hips and tailbone skyward. One pose where I really feel this is the yoga staple, downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana). You can step into downward facing dog from a forward fold, or if you do some yoga go through a sun salutation. On your exhale zip your low belly in like you’re bringing your belly button into your back, and feel how that frees up space to lift your tailbone higher, and takes the weight out of your hands. Firing up your core during crow means you don’t need a lot of upper body strength!
Another pose to prep (and set up for) crow is forward fold. Bend your knees as much as you need to to get your hands on the mat. Play with the same low belly tuck to pivot your hips higher, and spread your fingers wide on the mat, pressing down with all of your palm, base knuckles and fingers.
Next up is crow prep or for some of you, full on crow! Some find crow by resting their head on a block, but that puts a little strain on my neck. I prefer standing on the block; this allows you to get your hips really high and bring your feet together. Another key point – look forward – you can keep your balance by focusing on a spot in front of you and your head acts as a counter weight to your hips. Lift one foot off the block, then the other. Then rock forward until you feel your feet lift. It’s all about stacking hips, knees, elbows. Use a pillow under your head or around you if you get THE FEAR.
Speaking of FEAR. If you’re still not at crow I guarantee fear is what’s holding you back. Time to chase that shit. Get lots of pillows around you, set up for crow like we did above, and go to that point where you fall. And. actually. fall.
Not so bad is it? That’s the absolute worst case scenario. Try crow again, knowing that you’ve already been to the place that you’re afraid to go to, and you survived. You will probably fall again, maybe today, maybe another day, I still fall sometimes (actually I nearly did in the final photo), and you know what? You’ll live, get up, and try it again.
Once you’re up in crow, even for a few seconds, focus on a spot in front of you on your mat, and breathe deeply. Tweeze your inner thighs in towards each other and stay active in your core to lift your hips. As you get more comfortable in the pose, bring your knees higher up on your legs and work to straighten your arms. Oh and try not to get distracted by furry friends.
There you have it, my first #pathtothepose series. Play with the poses, and with patience and compassion you will find it!
Did any of these tips help you get a little closer to crow? What other tips have worked for you?
Here’s to living with new wings.