A fundamental action in many arm balances is the employment of Uḍḍiyāna Bandha. This energetic element starts as a muscular upward lift of the low belly. It develops into the harnessing of Prāṇa or lifeforce in the body to create a flying up effect. This is how a physical pose can transform from just an arm balance to flight.
Eka Pāda Bakāsana or One-Legged Crow is one of the first poses where yogis can really explore and appreciate uḍḍiyāna bandha. If you are strong enough in the upper body and have a solid base with the hands and arms, you can find Bakāsana or the two-legged version of the pose without any help from the bandha. You can “muscle” yourself into the posture. But, if you take one of the of the legs away it can be very difficult to stay up without it. In order to reintroduce ease and balance to the pose, you must leverage the lifting of energy from the belly up toward the head.
It’s helpful, almost a requirement, that Bakāsana is in your practice before moving on to this one-legged variation. Create a strong foundation in crow before trying these variations.
Option 1 – Slide One Knee. From Bakasana or Crow Pose with uḍḍiyāna bandha activated. Keep reaching the heart forward, and gently slide one knee off the tricep, trying to maintain balance. Be sure to hug the stationary knee toward the mid line of the body as you change position. Move slowly, making small adjustments. If you are able, replace the knee, pause, then slide the other knee off the tricep. Notice if one side was more accessible than the other.
Option 2 – Back Foot Propped or Parallel. From Downward Facing Dog, bring you knee to the tricep as you shift forward, bending the elbows to a Caturanga or push-up shape. Reach your heart about a foot or two in front of your fingertips. Gently teeter further forward as you prop the back foot up on a block or bolster. This support through the back leg will help you find the balance point or fulcrum. Since the back leg is long, the heart has to reach even further than it would in Bakāsana. When you are able, float or lift the back leg without the use of a prop, keeping the leg parallel to the floor.
Option 3 – Back Leg Ascending. This variation is especially helpful for yogis who are working towards the press to handstand (a blog for another day). Leveraging the lift of uḍḍiyāna bandha, shift the heart a little further forward as the back leg lifts skyward. As you move, focus on the shape of the arms, keeping both arms hugging to the midline. It can be tempting to allow the free arm to wing out, but keep the structure to maintain a solid base. As your upper body bears more weight, it can cause a sinking through the heart. Using uḍḍiyāna bandha will help you maintain the lift away from the floor.
Option 4 – From Śīrṣāsana. If you have a stable tripod headstand practice, try the traditional entry to this pose. From headstand, slowly hug one knee to the chest and set it on the tricep. Press down with the shin, lift through the belly, and reach the heart forward to lift into Eka Pāda Bakāsana. Work to come into the pose without touching down the back foot. In order to do this you’ll need to engage (you guessed it) uḍḍiyāna bandha. Move slowly as you harness the body’s strength and energy to find the arm balance.
Going from Bakāsana to the One-Legged Variation can be like the work of a building inspector. As you explore, you might find that additional work and structure are needed to make both postures stable, strong and easeful. As you explore, make sure you are working where there is just enough challenge for you.
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