Here I am, hovering, flying, floating in the air. This is the foundation of all hand-balancing.
(And no, I’m not naked. But now that you mention it, I realize I could’ve been.)
Crow Pose was the first arm balance I learned. I am very fond of it because it was what helped capture how it feels to float on my arms. I’ve shared my experiences before on how difficult and gratifying it was to finally hold this pose for any appreciable amount of time. I remember I was terrified of going too far forward or going upside down and it turned out my wrists had no control and were very weak.
The crow pose goes by many names: Bakasana in Yoga (Sanskrit) and Frog Stand in Gymnastics.
Nowadays, when I stick a handstand, I get that same flying feeling crow pose gives, but even more intensely. The great thing about crow though is that it’s a lot less intimidating than a handstand, more people can do it, and it strengthens the wrists up for handstands in the future.
The easiest version is with bent arms, like this!
Now it’s your turn to try. Follow my guided instructional video below. 🙂
Common Question: On what part of my arms do I place my knees?
The lower the knees are, the easier it will be. The higher up it is, the harder because your center of gravity will be higher and it requires really good compression (squat mobility and hip flexion) to do that. So for beginners, on the triceps, anywhere between the arm pits and the elbow is fine. As you get more comfortable, putting the knees up higher would be a good goal. So would straightening the arms, but that makes it a hell of a lot harder as well because it becomes predominantly shoulder strength instead of being evenly distributed along the shoulder and elbow joints.
Tips from the Video
- Elevating your feet by a few inches makes it such that you don’t have to compress as much.
- Remember that as you lean forward, you have to adjust your gaze forward as well. This keeps the chest lifted.
- If you have a fear of falling forward (most people do), put a big fat pillow in front of your face. Anything that this feel safer will help you.
- I would even recommend purposely going too far forward (faceplant into pillow) just so you know what it’s like to go too far the other way to help you understand how to balance this out.
- Initially, for a long time I was only able to hold this pose for just a second or two. My breakthrough came when I tried to actively flex the bananas out of my abs as I leaned forward. It was then I realized I had been trying to passively go into the pose and hoping that I would just magically balance up there. But it’s not a passive pose. You must be very ACTIVE and REACTIVE in it.
- If you press weight into the heel of your hand, your body will go forward. If you grip/claw with the fingers, you body will go back. This is key to handstand control and playing with these concepts in crow is much easier than a handstand.
- Hand control drill: Try purposely going too far forward, then grip/claw with your fingers and see how that puts the brakes on and makes you fall back on your feet.
- I think that falling out of crow is one of the most important steps toward doing crow. You can’t get into it if you don’t go for it, but going for it is scary if you’re afraid of falling. Once you have fallen out of it you know you’re unlikely to hurt yourself.
The harder version is with straight arms (aka crane pose or advanced frog stand)
The straight-arm frog stand is a rudimentary, supplemental exercise for developing some of the insane straight-arm strength needed to hold the (tuck) planche. The straight armed version requires more shoulder strength and raises your center of gravity. Plus, it can be made even more difficult by putting the knees high up into the arm pits. It is difficult to go directly into the straight-arm version. People usually have to straighten it gradually over the sessions. Here are a couple ways to train it:
- With a band: The band-assisted route is a fun way of getting better at holding a straight armed crow pose/frog stand. (This is part of my push/pull split bodyweight training routine)
- With planche leans: An indirect progression would be to do planche leans (something like 3-5 sets limited to 10-12sec holds) and as your ability to lean improves, when you try a crow pose with straight arms (or maybe even a tuck planche, if you have the hip mobility for it) you’ll find yourself able to hold it.
Some other tips…
- Let your head go against the wall: A cool trick that will help you actually is to try do it with straight arms while facing a wall, at such a distance that your head literally rests against the wall when the arms straighten. Start with your hands close to the wall and move them back until the head/wall assistance is perfect. You have to play with the distance of your hands from the wall until it feel just right but when you figure it out, it’s really cool. It’s like a wall-supported advanced frog stand.
After you are comfortable with crane pose, here are some transitions to work toward…
After you have gotten comfortable with crow, there are a number of fun ways of getting into and out of crow that can be made part of your own personal flow.
1. Crow to Tripod Headstand
Prerequisite: Crow Pose and Tripod Headstand.
This is a really fun transition. You must be comfortable with both the Crow and Tripod Headstand to do this safely. If you are able to do those both, the only other thing I recommend is that you plop your head down as slowly as possible. If you do not have the tripod headstand, please watch my tutorial video here:
2. Air Baby Extensions / One Leg Extended in Crow Pose
This is Ido Portal easily demonstrating this really challenging variation.
How to do these…
- Rotate one hand out 90 degrees and put the other one a little bit more forward.
- Lift into crow and shift the weight toward the rotated hand as you straighten the opposite leg back and forth.
- Do it slowly and maintain balance.
- If you get good at these Air Baby Extensions, then you could step your game up and eventually hold a Static Air Baby, which is a move that breakdancers fly into for a moment when they are doing their thing.
3. Float Back from Crow
This is Cameron Shayne demonstrating the best float back ever. This is in REAL TIME (Read: not slowed down). That’s how much control he has. Control that I want to have one day. And one day I will because it’s a great demonstration of shoulder strength.
Some tips about how to execute this:
- It’s not about jumping back as much as it is about bringing the shoulders forward during the motion so you stay planted on your arms.
- VISUALIZE/DREAM/IMAGINE that you are performing this move perfectly. Go ahead, do it now, I’ll wait. (No seriously, imagine yourself right now doing this motion in the first person.)
- Kino has a video for building strength for the float back as well. She breaks it down to bringing one leg back at a time. I’m not sure how helpful it is to try alone, because she is very clearly supporting the student during the motion. So I guess you should ask your friend to help you. 🙂
4. Jumping into Crow from Downward Dog
Below is a clip taken from Kino’s video tutorial. This is another tough one, not as hard as the others, but also very neat to nail down.
- Go into a super-short downward dog, so short that you could just lean your knees onto your arms into crow. Do that many times.
- If you’re comfortable with that, make your downward dog a little bit longer (but still very short) so that all you need to do is a tiny jump into crow.
- Make your downward dog slightly longer and jump into crow again.
5. Crow Pose Press to Handstand
I would recommend one be good at doing full handstand push ups first (with a wall is fine) before attempting this. To understand the progressions that lead up to HSPU’s, go to my bodyweight training guide and open the pushing section.
This video below by Adam Steer explains how to press yourself up from crow into a handstand. He shows an interesting progression where you face the wall and when you press up into handstand, your feet land on the wall to save you. One thing not mentioned in the video, however, and what helped me dramatically, was to understand that for the hips to go up, your head and shoulders need to go FORWARD. The ‘extreme’ example of that would be you lean so far forward that you end up on your head in a tripod headstand.
Want More Advanced Stuff?
Of course you do… here’s some more transitions to aspire to, although it would help a lot if you could hold a freestanding handstand for most of these:
- Float Forward from Downward Dog into Standing (working on forward bend/pike flexibility helps)
- Float Forward from Downward Dog to Bakasana (known as Bakasana B)
- Floating Forward from Downward Dog into Squat (known as Flying Frog)
- Note: I aspire to replicate these Jedi Sun Salutations one day.
Since you made it to the bottom of this article, as a reward, I’ll leave you with the bloopers from my crow pose video!
Thanks for reading! I hope you find inversions as fun as I do!