Posture of the month: CROW POSE (BAKASANA)

Bakasana is often the first arm balance that people learn. It’s a great feeling once we get lift off in this pose, but it can take a leap of faith the first time, a willingness to trust ourselves and overcome our fear of falling.

Bakasana is often the first arm balance that people learn. It’s a great feeling once we get lift off in this pose, but it can take a leap of faith the first time, a willingness to trust ourselves and overcome our fear of falling.

Preparatory poses

Plank pose and Vasisthasana are useful for building some upper body strength.

Cat Pose, Child’s Pose and Garland Pose (Malasana), are useful for allowing the spine to gently round

Baddha Konasana and Malasana are also useful for opening the inner groins and hips prior to performing Bakasana.

How to Perform
  • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), inhale and raise the arms up and exhale and fold forward, bending the knees as much as you need to, placing the hands flat on the floor shoulder width apart, and about 10 inches (25 centimetres) in front of the feet, with the middle finger pointing forward and the other fingers spreading out from there.
  • With the feet close together, come on to tip toes, begin to bend the legs, widening the knees whilst keeping the bottom lifting high.
  • Begin to bend the elbows a little, lift the heels higher off the floor, and shift your weight forward into the hands to bring the knees on the upper arms as close to the arm pits as possible.
  • Strongly press the knees in against the upper arms, engage through your abdominal muscles, and trust in the support of your arms. Once the weight is in the hands, lift the feet fully off the floor, and straighten the arms as much as possible, pushing the floor away.
  • Keep the feet together and active, pressing through the ball joints of the big toes, and draw them into towards your buttocks. Keep the bottom high and allow the spine to round upwards.
  • Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, engaging mula bandha and keeping the head up and the gaze on the tip of the nose to help with your balance.
  • To exit the pose, either carefully lower the feet back to the floor and inhale to come back to standing, or lightly step or jump back to Chaturanga Dandasana and continue via your Vinyasa flow into your next pose.
  • In the second series ashtanga sequence, Bakasana may also be jumped into directly from Downward Facing Dog, although this take a great amount of control and lift through the bandhas, and therefore many years of practice for most people.
  • Bakasana can also be entered from Three Point Headstand, but that’s a story for another day . . .

Benefits
  • Strengthens the wrists, arms, shoulders and abdominal muscles
  • Quietens and focuses the mind
  • Helps to face and conquer the fear of falling forward, which can help build confidence and courage in other areas of our lives
  • Helps to build the strength and focus required for more challenging arm balancing poses
Modifications
  • To begin with, do not try to straighten the arms but keep the elbows bent as you learn to balance.
  • Practice transferring the weight back and forth from toes to hands, without actually taking the feet off the floor.
  • If you are worried about falling, place a large cushion in front of your hands to relieve the fear.
  • If it’s difficult to get lift off, try taking a block under the feet to give yourself a little extra help
Contraindications
  • Not suitable for those with current wrist injuries
  • Those with a current shoulder injury shoulder injury should also proceed with caution
  • Not suitable during pregnancy

Posture of the month: Shoulderstand

Turning your body up side down builds strength and elasticity in the musculature, ligaments and connective tissues of the spine and rib cage. Improves posture and energises our vital organs.

Salamba Sarvangasana : supported Shoulderstand pose

In yoga Headstand is sometimes called th King of yoga and Shoulderstand the Queen of yoga. The postures are so beneficial in whole that it is no wonder they’ve been called King & Queen of yoga.

Benefits:

Turning your body up side down builds strength and elasticity in the musculature, ligaments and connective tissues of the spine and rib cage. Inversions help  improve posture and energises our vital organs.

Physical level: stimulating the endocrine glands and the thyroid. Helps rebalancing hypoactive thyroid. Relieves reparation problems such as asthma congestion and sinusitis. Reduces stress to the musculature and organs of the torso, improving digestion, respiration and circulation. Inversions bring relief to tired, strained legs. Reduces water retention in the legs.

Mind level: calms the mind

Emotional: relieves stress and can helps with mild depression
Chakra: awakens vishuddhi chakra (throat chakra)

Cautions:

People suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, enlarged thyroid, during menstruation or excessive toxins in the system shouldn’t attempt inverted postures. If you are pregnant and you have practised sarvangasana before your pregnancy regularly you can do the asana, but listen to your body as every woman experience it differently.

How to:

  1. Lie in a relaxed supine position
  2. Then bring the legs together, palms of the hands on the floor beside the body
  3. Raise the legs, bringing them a little behind the head, so that the back rises, and support the back with the hands
  4. Raise the legs in the air, feet towards the ceiling
  5. Support the lower back with the hands, keeping the elbows behind on the floor
  6. The hands can be adjusted so that you are steady, elbows can come towards each other
  7. Keep neck long
  8. Concentrate on the throat centre

Coming out: slowly lower the back onto the floor, keeping the legs raised. Keep the palms of the hands on the ground and slowly lower the legs.

The posture is more intense if you apply Ujjayi breath.

Modifications:
Vipareeta Karani (upside down): Major difference to shoulderstand is the angle of the back to the floor. In sarvangasana the back and legs should be perpendicular; in vipareeta karani the back is at a forty-five degree angle to the floor and legs.


More modifications:
Variation I:
  

Variation II:


Next step
:
Niralamba shoulderstand : unsupported shoulderstand

Try to maintain same angle back to floor as in the supported shoulderstand, but place the palms parallel on the floor with straight arms.