Strike a Pose. There’s Nothing to it. Crow

Yoga is a great way to build upper body and core strength and improve balance—and the crow pose helps you do all three at the same time. Don’t let it intimidate you—this dramatic-looking pose is also one of the most beginner-friendly arm balances.

While some yoga teachers and students advocate a “just try it!” approach, I’ve always been more of a take-it-one-step-at-a-time girl. In this post, I show you three beginner variations of the crow that will help you steadily work toward the full stance. (I also give you a couple of more advanced things to try after you’ve gotten comfortable with the act of having your hands be the only part of your body to be touching the ground.)

May they help you fly!
A few points to keep in mind, no matter which variation you choose:

  • Bend your elbows deeply so that your upper arms go close to—but not farther than—parallel to the ground to create a shelf for your knees to rest on.
  • Grip your arms with your knees and push into your knees with your arms – the resistance you create will help you lift up.
  • Draw the navel in as strongly as you can, as if you could lift your whole body up by your belly button.
  • Gaze slightly forward and keep the chest lifted.
  • Play with distributing your weight further forward so that you feel it in your fingers, and then with pressing into your palms. This will help you find the weight distribution for balance, and help you correct if you feel yourself tip too far forward or backward.

Variation 1: Crow on tiptoe
Both feet stay on the ground in this version. But you start to play around with your weight distribution and the lifting action in the belly. You also realize that while, yes, there is some upper body strength required, it’s really more a question of shifting your weight. Your arms become a fulcrum and your torso a lever. (And you wondered how the physics you studied in school was ever going to apply in real life.)

To do it, come into a low squat with your feet together and knees apart. Bring your arms inside your knees and place your hands to the floor, shoulder distance apart. Draw the belly button in strongly and lift your hips. Bend the elbows and place your knees on the backs of your arms. Squeeze in with the knees and push out with the elbows to form a tight seal. Then shift your weight forward over your hands and come as high up on tiptoes as you can. Stay a moment or two before rocking back. Take a brief rest. Try two more times.

Variation 2: One-footed crow
Take it one step further by lifting one foot at a time up off the ground. Keep everything you worked on in the tiptoe version going.

Variation 3: Crow pose—the safety version
I know what you’re thinking – what if I fall forward and crash into my face? I can’t lie, this may happen. If that thought makes you not want to try, get a bolster or couch cushion and put it on the ground in front of you. You can even experiment with falling on purpose – it’s a great way to test your tipping point. Plus, it’s liberating to have your worst fear come true and then realize, it’s not that big a deal.

Keep practicing, and soon you’ll achieve lift off! Even one second with both feet off the floor, floating, is a total victory. Once there, work on extending how many breaths you can stay.

Places to go from here

One of the great things about yoga is there is always something to be working toward. Meaning, there will always be something you can’t do today that you may be able to do tomorrow. (Or next month. Or next year. Or next lifetime.)

Here are a couple crow variations that you may decide to explore at some point in your yoga journey. May they inspire you to keep your mind open to what is possible, even as you celebrate each mini-crow milestone along the way:

Crow into chaturanga

Crow into tripod headstand (and back)

For more opportunities to practice your crow, check out Shiva Rea’s Surf Yoga Soul Balance Flow on Acacia TV. With our streaming video workouts, you can experiment with arm balances in the privacy of your own home. (And if you aren’t an Acacia TV member, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial here.