The twisty flying pose of Side Crow or Parsva Bakasana is the power pose this week. With all the New Year’s talk of letting go of the past, detoxifying, setting goals, and getting a strong start to 2015 it’s the perfect fit.
If Bakasana or Crow Pose is in your practice, then you’re off to a good start. The fundamentals established in crow pose are the base of this posture. Before working on this pose, fill your practice with twists, side lengthening, coiling, and uddiyana bandha activation. Then, you’ll be ready to attempt flight.
When I teach this pose, I’m often asked if students should balance on both elbows/arms or just one. Typically, I’ll teach beginners to make contact with the thigh to one tricep/elbow and the hip to the other tricep/elbow. This does two things. It creates a feeling of security, it also requires that you have a deep twist to be successful. If the student can find a controlled entry to the pose, then I’ll have them “float” their hip. This is done by widening the stance of the hands. Personally, I think floating the hip is a little easier, but done incorrectly, can encourage improper form that could be harmful to the shoulder and elbow.
Here are a few stages and variations to help you find Parsva Bakasana or explore the posture.
Option 1 – Squat Twist. As I mentioned above, the twist is a key action and gateway to this side crow. Work on a nice compact twist in a squatting position. Focus on the knees hugging together and leveraging the triceps against the thigh to deepen the twist. Think of the heart and the knees reaching in opposite directions, while keeping the shoulder heads broad and collarbone open. Work to get your palms flat on the ground in the twist.
Option 2 – Heart Reach. When you are satisfied with the twist, keeping the triceps grounded on the thigh, walk the hands away a couple of inches. The hands should be about shoulder width. Lift the heels and tail slightly as you reach the heart forward. At the same time, bend the elbows, creating a caturanga shape in the arms. Continue to pull the heart forward, bearing weight on the hands and maintaining the structure in the arms and shoulders.
Option 3 – Flight. Moving slowly and with control, so not to strain or injure the shoulders, continue to pull the heart forward as you lift through the low belly, activating uddiyana bandha. Eventually you will find the fulcrum point of balance. Keep the reach of the heart and tap into your core energy to give lift and flight to the pose. If falling forward is a concern, create a little crash pad with pillows or blankets. Sometimes going just a bit too far can be a great teacher.
Option 4 – Float the Hip. On the side where you were grounding the elbow to the hip, take the hand just a little wider before coming in to the pose. Keep the action of the elbows drawing back and hug them towards the midline of the body without collapse. Reach the heart forward and come into the pose, creating a line from the hip to toes that is parallel to the floor. Prevent the hip from sagging to the floor.
The big twist of the torso is such a key component of this posture. Working on your range of motion in twists will benefit this pose. Twisting poses are great for detoxifying the organs. They wring them out just like when you twist a soppy dishrag. Be sure to follow-up a twisty practice with cleansing water and nourishing food.
The great thing about your yoga practice is that you can set a new resolution each time you step on the mat or with the start of each day. Be sure to work where you feel challenged, but also where you can breath, relax around the work, and create positive energy.
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