Juliana from Shakti Mama left a comment on my previous post with the following question: "When I attempt to do crow, sometimes the backs of my arms and knees slide against each other and I lose my balance. Is there anything I can do to help keep my knees firm against the backs of my arms, or is this a matter of practice?"
I used to struggle with this (and most other, let's be honest!) aspect of bakasana, or crow pose (also known as crane pose, kakasana), too. That, and the fear of falling flat on my face... Then one day about a year ago, I took an Anusara workshop with the fabulous Desiree Rumbaugh and her partner Andrew Riven, and their way of teaching this pose made it all come together for me. So, I thought I'd share it here!
The key difference is the starting position. Most of us learning bakasana are told to put our knees up against the backs of our arms, like this:
Desiree and Andrew teach it a bit differently. First, they had us squat down with our feet touching and our hands shoulder width apart, like this:
We stayed here for a few breaths, focusing on hugging the knees against the back and outside of the upper arms and engaging the core to squeeze the knees in.
Then, we straightened the arms and walked the hands and feet closer together, still squeezing in, and finally coming up on tiptoes to come to a position like this:
From there, we kept pressing the knees firmly against the upper arms and practiced elevating one foot at a time, keeping the other safely on the ground:
And finally, we gently transferred more weight onto our hands and used our core muscles to lift the feet up!
For me, this method has two serious advantages.
1) There is much less knee slippage - hugging the knees in keeps the knees really nice and stable.
2) The preparatory position is almost exactly the same as the final position! Notice that the feet are together, and the back is rounded like child's pose, just like in the final expression of crow. So all you have to focus on is lifting your feet.
The one disadvantage is that if you are not very open in the hips, the prepatory position can be a bit tricky. To help with this, they suggested using a block or blanket under your feet, to elevate the feet a bit and reduce the load on your hips, like this: (a nice fat pillow in front of you also doesn't go amiss...).
Here's a shot where you can see how the two knee positions compare. It's a subtle change in position but for me, it made a WORLD of difference.
Finally, remember that to come into bakasana from this position, you are not moving forward and down, as it might feel. Your body is staying in almost the exact same place but your feet are lifting up. So the gaze, or drishti in this pose is NOT the floor where you are afraid you are going to face-plant, but forward and upward as you hug your feet - one at a time, or both - up towards the mid-line.
Was this helpful to you? It sure was to me. :) Have you ever had a "revelation" in a pose or a teacher that suddenly opened it up for you? I'd love to hear about it!