How to Do Side Crow Pose in Yoga
Side Crow Pose, also sometimes called "Side Crane Pose," is an advanced variation of the arm balance, Crow Pose (Bakasana). This posture requires both core strength and arm strength, but it requires even more strength of mind! Practicing Side Crow can be a great way to build focus and concentration.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Parsva Bakasana" (PARZH-vuh bah-KAHS-uh-nuh), comes from three words:
- “Parsva” — meaning “side” or “flank”
- "Baka" — meaning "crane" (though commonly translated as "crow")
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
Since this pose requires significant physical and mental muscle, be sure to warm up thoroughly before attempting it. Practice several rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara) and 10-20 minutes of active, standing postures before moving into Side Crow.
Benefits of Side Crow Pose
Parsva Bakasana strengthens the arms, wrists, shoulders, abdominal muscles, and spine. It stretches the upper back and groins, while improving flexibility throughout the spine and lower back. Twisting your torso also massages the abdominal organs, which improves digestion and detoxification.
This pose increases body awareness, self-confidence, and physical coordination. The strong mental focus required to practice Parsva Bakasana improves the ability to concentrate in everyday life. Learning how to stay calm and clear-headed while having to balance builds poise and grace, increasing your ability to handle life's difficulties with ease.
Parsva Bakasana is not easy to master. It demands all the concentration we can muster… We come to see that Parsva Bakasana can be done only with the proper blend of strength and surrender. What perfect training for the rest of life!
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic wrist, shoulder, or back injury, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Women who are pregnant should also avoid this pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Chair Pose (Utkatasana), squatting at the top of your mat with your knees and feet pressing together. Lower your hips so your thighs come parallel to the floor.
- Lower your arms and bring your palms together in prayer position at your chest.
- Exhaling, twist your torso to the right. Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh.
- Shift your left hip back slightly, squaring off your hips once again to the top of your mat. Bring your knees into alignment.
- Press your upper left arm against your thigh and draw your right shoulder blade into your back to turn your chest to the right. This is Chair Pose Twist (Parivrtta Utkatasana).
- Sink your hips low to the mat, bending your knees deeply. Place both palms flat on the mat to the right of you, keeping your arms shoulder-width apart. You may need to come onto the balls of your feet to do this. Bring your left arm’s outer armpit as high as possible along the outside of your right thigh.
- Spread your fingers wide and press your weight evenly into both hands. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Begin to shift your body forward. Rest the outside of your right hip on the back of your right upper arm. Rest the outside of your right knee against the back of your left upper arm. Your right hip and knee should create a flat beam across the backs of both arms. Keep your knees together.
- Press down through your right hip and lift both feet off the floor. Work toward bringing your feet and legs parallel to the floor. Straighten your arms as much as possible.
- Raise your chest and head to look forward toward the horizon.
- Hold for up to 10 breaths. To release, gently lower your feet to the mat. Return to Chair Pose. Repeat Side Crow on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Modifications & Variations
Parsva Bakasana can add exciting variety to your regular routine, but it's important to remember that yoga is a practice — you will very likely fall out of the pose when learning it! If you'd like to deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- For extra support, rest your forehead on a yoga block, bolster, or folded blanket as you lift your feet from the floor.
- If it's difficult to lift both feet at the same time, lift one leg at a time until you have built up enough strength and confidence to raise them together.
- For a greater challenge, rest your thighs on only one arm; do not rest your outer hip on the opposite arm. For example, follow Steps 1-6 of the Instructions, listed above. In Step 7, center your thighs along your left upper arm. Press all of your body's weight onto that arm as you lift your feet.
- For even more of a challenge, extend both legs straight out to the side. Keep your feet in line with your hips and press through the balls of your feet.
- More experienced students can jump from Side Crow Pose directly into Chaturanga, and then continue to flow through a vinyasa.
- Advanced students can move directly from Tripod Headstand (Sirsasana) into Side Crow Pose, and then move from Side Crow back into Headstand.
Practicing Parsva Bakasana will improve your coordination and your concentration. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Set a pile of blankets or a pillow in front of you. If you fall forward, you will land on something soft.
- Spread your fingers wide and distribute your weight evenly across both palms and all fingers.
- Tuck in tightly! Keep your heels and buttocks drawn close together.
- Keep your spine rounded.
- Look forward as much as you can without compressing your neck. Looking down or back toward your heels will cause you to fall.
- Draw your abdominal muscles in strongly.
- Straighten your arms as much as you can.
- Keep in mind that nearly everyone falls when learning this pose!
Fly to the Side
If you're new to arm balances, Parsva Bakasana might seem out of reach. But with practice and dedication, you will be able to lift both feet and balance. Try practicing with your hip resting on your arm for support before moving into the legs-only version. And try not to get frustrated! It's normal to fall while learning this pose. It might seem difficult at first, but with consistency and patience, you'll find your wings soon enough.