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These 7 Prep Poses Will Help You Build the Strength to Master Crow Pose in No Time

by Nomad Yoga

Crow pose, or bakasana, is not an easy posture to master. In fact, it’s one of the hardest poses in the entire yogic asana repertoire. But, it isn’t unattainable. It just requires strength, flexibility, stamina, patience, and a lot of grit.

Crow pose really isn’t just one of those postures that you attempt to practice full out on your first try. Because it’s a tenuous arm balance, it takes a bit of finessing your form before you’re able to jump headfirst into the pose without landing headfirst on the floor.

But luckily, there are plenty of excellent preparatory postures that you can practice to build up the strength, balance, and flexibility necessary to master bakasana and fly with ease.

Struggle with crow? Here are 5 Common Mistakes in Crow Pose (And How to Fix Them!)

Practice These 7 Prep Poses to Build the Strength and Balance You Need to Master Crow Pose:

These seven prep poses all work on different parts of the body that are needed in crow pose. Practice these diligently with attention to activation and form and you’ll likely surprise yourself in bakasana very soon.

1. Flipped Wrist Cat (Marjaryasana Variation)

Spice up this simple and commonly-visited asana with a bit of a wrist stretch to prepare your body for the arm balance that is crow pose. Also, prepare your back body and core for the C-curve shape needed to balance and hover in bakasana.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a yoga pose on all fours (cat pose) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start on all fours in a tabletop position
  • Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees
  • Turn your fingers toward the outer edges of your mat and then fully around to face toward your knees as far as your body will comfortably allow
  • Inhale and ground the heels of your hands firmly into the floor
  • Exhale and press into your palms to round your back body 
  • Draw your shoulder blades apart from each other and hug your navel toward your spine
  • Bring your chin toward your chest and gaze toward your navel 
  • Curl your tailbone toward the floor
  • Feel the strong activation in your core and the deep release in your wrists and forearms
  • Place this spinal position into your muscle memory to recall when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths

2. Supine Crow Pose (Supta Bakasana)

Flip crow pose on its back and activate all the same musculature needed for bakasana with this equally challenging but less weight-bearing (and less scary!) variation. 

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a yoga pose on her back (supine crow pose or supta bakasana) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start lying on your back and draw your knees into your chest
  • Stretch your arms up toward the sky in line with your shoulders
  • Extend your wrists to reach your palms toward the ceiling 
  • Spread your fingers wide and evenly space between them
  • Bring your big toes to touch and spread your knees apart
  • Hug your knees in closely toward your arms and slide them as high up toward your armpits as your body will comfortably allow
  • Energetically squeeze your legs in toward the midline of your body
  • Use the same amount of energy to press your upper arms against your inner thighs
  • Press your hands up toward the ceiling until your shoulders and head lift from the floor
  • Draw your shoulder blades apart from each other and round your back body
  • Suction your navel toward your spine
  • Look up toward your fingers
  • Place this full body shape into your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths

Ready to take your arm balances to the next level? Practice Take Flight with Leah Sugerman

3. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

Open your hips to prep for crow pose as you also strengthen your inner thigh muscles. This group of muscles (the adductors) is crucial to stabilizing your body in bakasana.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a yoga lunge pose (lizard pose) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start on all fours in a tabletop position 
  • Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees
  • Step your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand
  • Ground down against your hands and your right foot to lift your left knee and stretch your left leg back behind you
  • Kick back firmly through your left heel and lift your left thigh bone away from the floor
  • Lengthen your whole back body and stretch the crown of your head forward in space
  • Energetically squeeze your right thigh in against your upper right arm
  • Use the same amount of energy to press your upper right arm out against your right thigh
  • Place this muscular activation into your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths before switching sides

4. Sleeping Eagle Pose (Garudasana Variation)

Work your inner thighs further with this bakasana prep pose as you also activate your core to create a rounded spine. Sleeping eagle pose also challenges your balance which is also a key component of crow pose.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a balancing yoga pose (sleeping eagle pose or garudasana) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start standing at the top of your mat with your hands on your hips
  • Focus your eyes onto one non-moving point in front of you and keep your gaze locked
  • Root your weight into your left leg and rise to the ball of your right foot
  • Bend both knees deeply and sink the weight of your hips toward the floor
  • When you feel stable, lift your right foot off the floor and cross it over your left
  • You can lower your right toes to the floor, keep them lifted, or double wrap your right foot behind your left calf
  • Squeeze your legs together firmly
  • Once you’ve stabilized your lower body, release your hands from your hips and give yourself a hug with your right arm crossed under your left
  • You can stay as you are, bend your elbows to bring the backs of your hands to touch, or double wrap your forearms to bring your palms to touch
  • Squeeze your arms together firmly 
  • Inhale and lengthen your back body as you stretch your elbows up toward the sky
  • Exhale and round your back body as your draw your navel toward your spine and your elbows toward your knees 
  • Draw your shoulder blades apart from each other and sink your hips lower toward the floor
  • Place this spinal curvature and muscular activation into your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths before switching sides

Feeling ready to take on bakasana? Practice Flow Toward Crow Pose with Leah Sugerman

5. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

Find the balance between effort and ease as you learn the effects of counterbalance in this prep pose for crow.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a balancing yoga pose (warrior III or virabhadrasana III) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start standing at the top of your mat with your hands on your hips
  • Focus your eyes onto one non-moving point on the floor in front of you and keep your gaze locked
  • Root your weight into your left leg and rise to the ball of your right foot
  • Activate your core strongly by cinching in around your whole waistline as if tightening a corset
  • When you feel stable, lift your right foot off the floor and sweep it straight back behind you
  • Allow your torso to naturally lean forward to counterbalance the weight of your leg reaching back
  • Draw your torso and your back leg roughly parallel to the floor 
  • Kick back firmly through your right foot as if pressing into a wall behind you
  • Stretch the crown of your head in the opposite direction to counterbalance your weight
  • Ground down strongly into your left leg
  • You can stay as you are, draw your hands to meet at your heart, or stretch your arms forward in front of you to frame your face
  • Kick back and reach forward with equal and opposite energy
  • Place this counterbalance of weight into your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths before switching sides

6. Core Plank (Phalakasana Variation)

Get accustomed to weight-bearing in your arms along with intense core work with this plank variation to help you build the strength and stamina for crow pose.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a yoga pose (core plank pose) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start in downward facing dog
  • Inhale and sweep your right leg up toward the sky
  • Exhale and draw your knee toward your nose as you shift your weight forward to align your shoulders over your wrists in a plank pose shape
  • Round your back body and hug your navel toward your spine
  • Press firmly into your hands to draw your shoulder blades apart
  • Place this spinal shape and arm and core activation into your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about five deep breaths before switching sides

Need more core work? Practice Cardio Core Flow with Leah Sugerman

7. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Chaturanga is the foundation of all arm balances and crow pose is no exception. Master the basic biomechanics of chaturanga to be able to replicate this shape in bakasana.

Woman yoga teacher dressed in all black practicing a yoga pose (chaturanga dandasana or yogic push-up) against a white backdrop

To Practice:

  • Start in a strong and stable plank pose
  • Activate your core by cinching in around your waistline as if tightening a corset
  • Squeeze your legs toward the midline of your body and kick your feet back firmly
  • Inhale and lean your body weight forward in space until your shoulders move slightly past the crease of your wrists (you may need to micro-bend your elbows to do this)
  • Exhale and bend your elbows straight back as you lower your torso toward the floor
  • Stop at whatever point you still feel strong enough to press back up into plank without arching your back
  • Place this arm shape and this muscular activation in your muscle memory to return to when you practice crow pose
  • Hold for about two to five deep breaths and then press back up into plank

Master These Prep Poses and You’ll Soon Master Bakasana

Although bakasana is a challenging posture, it doesn’t have to be elusive. If you put in the work to build the strength, flexibility, stamina, and balance needed, then crow pose will come naturally to you in due time.

Practice these prep poses with diligence, patience, and commitment and you’ll very likely surprise yourself the next time you try to pop up into bakasana. You may be flying before you even know it.

Ready to try another type of flying? Practice These 8 Steps to Find Balance in Headstand

Download Your FREE Master Crow Pose eBook

Master crow pose free ebook cover page with yoga teacher in all black practicing bakasana


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