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Yoga Arm Balance – The Crane (Bakasana)

I’ve always found it interesting that a specific asana can be loved by some people, while being despised by others. Bakasana, The Crane, is one of those postures which seems to split opinion.

I guess it’s only natural that we should be naturally drawn to postures which we are good at, or which are suited to our own specific strengths and abilities, while shying away from postures which our bodies are not so suited towards (which explains my aversion to upavistha konasana, Wide Legged Seated Forward Bend).

On the face of it that would explain my love of bakasana. To the uninitiated, the posture appears to rely heavily on upper body strength, but in fact, getting into and holding bakasana relies much more on focus and balance than on pure strength.

The name bakasana comes from the Sanskrit word baka meaning crane. It’s easy to see why the asana was given this name, as when seeing a yogi balanced gracefully on the hands with the body tucked in tight, one is reminded of a crane wading through a shallow pool.

To perform bakasana

1. After preliminary work to open the hips, and warm up the wrists, arms and shoulders, squat down from tadasana with the feet flat on the floor. Widen the knees and lean forward, so the torso comes between the inner thighs.

2. Bend the elbows, and place the hands flat on the floor, fingers spread, with the backs of the upper arms close to the armpits against the shins.

3. On an exhale, with the front of the body contracted, lift the heels and lean forward, taking the weight of the body onto the arms. Keeping tone in the abdomen, continue to lean forward and lift the tailbone until the feet lift off from the floor, and balance on the arms.

4. Straighten the arms as much as possible, gazing at a spot on the floor and slightly ahead, but do not lift the head so far as to compress the back of the neck.

5. The posture can be held for 10 – 60 seconds, then exhale and slowly lower the feet back towards the floor into a low squat. Bakasana rounds the spine, so a suitable counter pose would be an asana which takes the spine in the opposite direction, such as ustrasana (Camel).

Effects

Bakasana is of course strengthening to the upper body, particularly the arms and shoulders, and also the abdominal muscles. It massages the internal organs, and develops balance and focus. It’s also a great preliminary for handstand.

Contraindications

Wrist/arm/shoulder injuries, particularly carpel tunnel syndrome.

Pregnancy

Variations

A great variation is the side crow, parsva bakasana, which strangely many find easier than the regular pose. The asana can also be used in a sequence to/from a tripod headstand, or jumping from this posture back to plank or from downward facing dog.

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