My less than stellar first experience taught me one of the most important yoga lessons of all time. The gracefulness of the crane pose, like all other poses in yoga, takes time. It took me three years to lift into a comfortable crane pose, and even then, this arm balance is still a work in progress for me.
If you’re starting to dabble in arm balances too, here are a few tips that may help you master the pose in no time!
Work From The Crow
When I first managed to get both feet off the mat, I was ecstatic, only to be told that I wasn’t actually doing the crane, but the crow pose. To the discerning eye, there are many differences between the crane and the crow and that they are completely different poses altogether. But it is necessary to work towards a proper crane pose from crow.
The crow pose typically has the arms bent and the knees placed either on top of the arm or just next to it. On the other hand, the crane pose has the arm straight with the knees sitting on the upper arms as close to the armpits as possible. To do a full version of the crane pose, one must have equally strong core and arms. Many practitioners struggle to straighten the arms, making it difficult to transition to a crane from crow.
It is quite impossible to nail a crane pose at the get go. But don’t be discouraged. Work on the crow first and learn to build strength and stability here before you take the next step. It may take months or even years to perfect this asana, but with practice and patience, you will eventually get there.
Don’t Jump Into The Pose
As much as you would like to lift off, try to avoid jumping into the pose – that is, kicking your legs off the mat. Kicking your legs will help you get into the pose simply with the use of momentum, much like how a person kicks up into a handstand. The problem with using momentum is that you are not utilizing your core strength to move into this arm balance. This means that while you may be able to do the arm balance, chances are you won’t be able to hold the asana for very long. The pose will also be unstable, making it highly likely that you will tip over.
Instead, shift as much weight as you can towards your arms and practice this for a while. Try alternating your legs by lifting one leg off the mat and then the other, keeping weight fully on your arms and not on your supporting leg. Work to ensure that your shoulders are rotated out and that your whole palm is rooted to mat. In time, you will find it easy to lift both legs at the same time.
Work With The Core
The secret to arm balances is core strength. While the arms may do plenty of work supporting the body, it is the core that helps stabilize the pose and make lifting higher an easier task. In this and many arm balance, work with engaging the lower abdominals. If you are unsure where that is, place two fingers just below your navel. The space below your two fingers – roughly an inch - is where your lower abdominals are. As you engage the lower abs, try relaxing the upper abs.
To strengthen the core, I recommend that you work your way to it with poses such as the plank, the side plank, the one-legged downward dog and the downward dog before you get into working on the crane pose!
Want to learn more about how the anatomy works and how to use your core strength? Why not go on an intensive yoga teacher training?