I’ve written before about learning to headstand and why you should handstand, but what about the gateway drug to arm balances: crow pose. When I first started taking yoga classes, I remember a teacher telling people to do crow…but never explaining how. It remained an elusive and seemingly “elite” pose for a couple of years, and for a long time I simply believed that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
That was definitely not the case. I just needed someone to break down the specifics and tricks to it, and gain the confidence to try. Yoga is all physics. Every pose has a push and a pull, a connection the ground, and a balance point. Once you understand the components of each pose, you’re able to figure out how to make your body do it.
I’ve found that crow pose has three main components to master: fingertips, balance point, and fear.
Your fingertips are your brakes. By gripping them into the mat, you’re able to stop yourself (most of the time) from falling. Think about how natural it is for you to balance on your feet — but they’re constantly shifting and catching you without you even have to be aware of them. Your hands need to learn how to do the same thing for arm balances. Come to all fours and practice gripping your fingertips into the mat, like you’re terrified (which you might be). The top knuckle should pop off the ground but the rest of the hand should stay down. Shift your weight around a little and test out the strength of the fingers pressing into the floor.
2) Balance Point
The second key is learning how to find your balance point. In order to balance on your hands, you need to shift the heaviest part of your body — your hips — over the strongest part — your arms. I like to practice from all fours to give the body a sense of being stable whilst shifting forward. So, come to all fours, grip your fingertips into the mat, look forward, and shift your weight forward. Feel like you’re being held. Remember, if you look down, you’ll fall down, so keep looking forward like you’re eating out of someone’s hand.
The last key, and probably the most important, is fear. And this one is up to you. Your brain doesn’t want you to balance on your hands! It starts to freak out and prevents you from fully shifting your weight to the balance point where it needs to be. Here’s the thing — you very well might fall, I can’t tell you that you won’t. Heck, I’ve fallen more times than I can remember playing around with poses. But, maybe you won’t fall, and maybe if you do fall it won’t be so bad, and it will teach you what not to do next time. You won’t know what will happen till you try, so trust yourself enough to try something, believe in your strength, and you’ll accomplish more than you think you can.
With this in mind, come onto your toes, with your hands down, gripping the fingertips in. Bring the knees to the backs of the arms with the elbows slightly bent. Look forward, and shift your weight forward. Again — DO NOT LOOK DOWN. If you do, your hips will lift and you’re much more likely to fall on your head.
Practice shifting your weight forward, maybe lifting one toe, than the other. When you feel ready, lift one toe, shift forward just one more millimeter and lift the other. And fly!
P.S. I have a rule. You only have to hold a pose for a split second in order to have done it. That’s all you need to get a screenshot for Instagram right? No one else needs to know if you held it for a second or an hour. 😉
Interested in learning more tips to get into these tricky poses? Come to my Intro to Arm Balances & Inversions workshop on Saturday October 15, and gain the confidence in a safe and fun environment to try new things out!