Kakasana and Bakasana

June 22, 2022

Arm balance poses look impressive, but more importantly they offer physical and mental benefits to yoga practitioners. Learning to hold an arm balance pose is challenging, and challenges faced on the yoga mat prepare you for other challenges. You can take the calm and focus you use while holding Bakasana, and to apply it any problem cropping up in your life.

Beginning and Progressing

Begin by reading through the steps and visualizing your body moving into the pose. Visualization is used by professional athletes to maximize their training, so you can use it to “train” for an asana.

The next step toward successful arm balances is to warm up your body by practicing Sun Salutations. This wakes up your body, activating your muscles and balance reflexes. (For more detail, read Why You Should Never Skip Sun Salutations

Pranayama (breathing exercises) might also be useful to foster mental calm and focus.

Once warmed up, follow the step-by-step guide below for Easy Crow Pose, and practice until you feel comfortable and calm while holding the pose. Then you are ready to move on and follow the steps for Crow (Kakasana) and then Crane (Bakasana).

Many factors affect how long it might take to become comfortable in Kakasana or Bakasana - anatomy, strength, balance and coordination, previous experience, state of mind and more. There’s no perfect number of times to practice, and no quota of days, weeks or years your practice should take. The only rule is that regular practice will do far more good than occasional practice. 

The differences between Sukha Kakasana, Kakasana and Bakasana

In Easy Crow Pose your knees are further apart and your torso is closer to the ground. This wider base of support and lower center of gravity makes it easier to balance.

Crow Pose, with a narrower stance and slightly higher body position, requires more core control and balance.

Crane Pose has the highest body position and is therefore the most demanding of strength and balance.

The benefits of Kakasana and Bakasana

Get comfortable in Easy Crow, Crow or Crane for a myriad of benefits including boosting your powers of focus and concentration. Adding one of these poses into your regular practice will also help to improve circulation, lung capacity, core control, balance and coordination.

Key muscle groups that will be challenged and strengthened include the core (trunk) muscles, arms and shoulders. Even lower body strength and coordination comes into play in these poses.

Bakasana and Kakasana also stimulate the Sacral Chakra (Svadhishthana Chakra) and therefore help balance the functions of your urinary tract, kidneys, and gonads. 

1. Easy Crow Pose (Sukha Kakasana) Step-by-Step Guide

Easy Crow Pose
  1. Sit on your toes, with heels almost together and knees apart.
  2. Place your bent elbows in the crease of the inner side your knees. Your back should be slightly rounded.
  3. Keep your hands slightly higher than your knees, fingers spread apart and fingertips pointed slightly inwards.
  4. Maintain this alignment as you shift your weight forward, placing your palms on the floor roughly shoulder-width apart.
  5. Focus your gaze on a point half a meter (two feet) in front of your fingertips on the floor.
  6. Slowly lift your feet off the floor, one foot at a time.
  7. Pull both heels toward your hips, while looking at a point on the floor approximately 30cm (one foot) in front of your fingertips. Keeping these leg muscles engaged while holding the poses keeps your core active.
  8. Hold the pose briefly, then come out of it by shifting your weight backward with control, placing your feet on the floor and releasing your hands. (A beginner might work towards a ten second pose duration. With continued practice, a minute may become possible.) 

Wrist tip: the angle at your wrist should be 90 degrees. You can adjust this angle by placing a folded blanket under the heel of your palm. This sets the palm on an angle, taking some pressure off the wrist. (See How to Prevent Yoga Wrist Pain for more wrist tips.) 

Balance tip: if you’re struggling to ‘take off’, try pressing your forehead against a cushion on the floor to practice the weight shift.

Cautions: This pose is challenging for the wrists, shoulders, knees, groin and hamstrings so please take into account any injuries or issues your body is dealing with. Cardiovascular issues or unmanaged hypertension might mean the pose is unsuitable for you.

2. Crow Pose (Kakasana) Step-by-Step Guide

Classical Crow Pose
  1. Stand on your mat, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend forward, allowing your knees to bend and placing them against the back of your upper arms, just above your elbows.
  3. Maintaining the connection between your arms and knees, place your hands on the floor. Hands should be parallel, with fingers spread apart. Your back should be rounded, with the tailbone tucked in.
  4. Look forward toward the floor in front of you and shift your weight onto your hands. Actively push down through the heels of your palms, and your knuckles and fingertips.
  5. Lift your feet off the floor, one by one, and pull them up toward your hips. Keep your heels tucked towards your buttocks. Your big toes will be pointing slightly towards each other.
  6. If you are stable, press through your hands to straighten your arms as far as possible.
  7. Hold the pose steadily as long as comfortable and breathe evenly

Neck tip: keep your head in a neutral position, looking at the floor in front of you. You can also lift your head a little to look slightly forwards - do this by lifting from the chest to avoid tilting the head too much and compressing the back of the neck.

Wrist and balance tips as above: you can use a folded blanket under the heel of the palm to reduce wrist strain, and learn to balance the pose by practicing the weight shift with your forehead pressed onto a cushion on the floor. 

Cautions: as for Easy Crow Pose (above).

3. Crane Pose (Bakasana) Step-by-Step Guide

Crane Pose
  1. Stand on your mat, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat halfway down, allowing your knees to open shoulder-width apart and focus on keeping your lifted heels toward each other. If balancing on lifted heels is difficult, start with a rolled blanket or block under your heels.
  3. Bend forward and place your knees as high up against your upper arms as comfortable, or in your armpits if possible. Your back will be rounded, your tailbone tucked in.
  4. Keep the connection between your arms and knees, and then place your hands on the floor. As in Crow Pose, hands are parallel and fingers are spread.
  5. Look forward to the floor in front of you and shift your weight to your hands. Again, push actively into the floor with your fingertips, knuckles and the heels of the palms.
  6. Lift your feet off the floor one by one, and pull them up toward your hips. Keep the heels tucked in toward your buttocks, and your big toes angled toward each other.
  7. Once you have control in the position, press through your hands to straighten your arms as far as possible.
  8. Hold the pose steadily as long as is comfortable. Breathe evenly. 

Balance tip: keep your knees glued high on your upper arms. Your arms should angle slightly forwards, so from a side view your shoulders are in front your wrists. 

Neck and wrists tips: see tips in Crow Pose (above). 

Cautions: as for Easy Crow Pose (above).

Conclusion

To practice a strong and balanced Kakasana or Bakasana, you will need to develop physical strength, coordination and mental focus. This takes time. Start where you are, do what you can, and discover what you can achieve with a consistent commitment to yoga practice.

About the author

Kalyani Hauswirth Jain

Kalyani Hauswirth-Jain is creative director & senior teacher at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams since 2013. She teaches during the Arhanta 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training as well as a variety of 50-hour courses such as the Vinyasa Yoga teacher training.

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