For newbie yogis (and even more seasoned devotees), crow pose can seem downright intimidating. Yet, mastering this move is easier than you might think — and we’d say it’s worthy of every yogi’s bucket list.
Why Crow Pose Is So Tricky
Launching into crow is no easy feat: After pitching forward from a squat position, you’ll need to balance your entire bodyweight on just your hands. (And did we mention your knees are resting in your armpits, of all places?) “You need the strength and flexibility to get yourself in the right position to take flight, but once you’re [there] a lot of it is the balance, core work and…being able to stack your bones correctly,” says NYC-based yoga instructor Kristin McGee. But once you’re there? “It almost feels effortless, like you are flying.”
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Catching air will take some prep work, though. The secret to building up to crow lies in strengthening and stretching a few key areas of your body, before popping into position, according to McGee. “A deep squat is important to work on, because you need that range of motion in your hips to get your knees high enough around your armpits,” McGee says. (Check out how to squat lower here.) “Your armpit is like a baseball glove and your knee is like the ball, it should be a perfect fit.”
If you’re scared of falling flat on your face, McGee recommends creating a “crash pad” to ward off worries. “Put some blankets or pillows at the front of your mat, so even if you fall forward, at least that gives you a sense and understanding of how far forward you need to be in order to get into that position.”
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Practice these three moves and before you know it, you’ll be popping into crow like a pro.
3 Moves to Help You Master Crow Pose
1. Deep Yoga Squat
How to: Stand with feet hip-distance apart (a). Rise onto your tiptoes, and hold your arms straight out in front of you (b). Slowly lower your body into a deep squat, until your thighs are parallel to the floor (c). Return to standing.
2. Reverse Squat
How to: Start with feet planted on the floor, turned out and slightly wider than hip-distance. (a). Descend into a deep yoga squat until your butt is nearly touching the ground. Use a blanket or weighted bag to anchor your hands onto the floor (b). Slowly straighten your legs, lowering your head to look between your knees (c). Lower back into a squat.
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3. Modified Crow
How to: Get into a deep yoga squat, toes slightly turned out, heels on the ground (a). With your arms between your knees, plant your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, elbows pulled in near the sides of your body (b). Pull shoulders away from ears (c). Transition onto the balls of your feet, lifting your butt into the air (d). Walk your feet in closer to your body, until you can fit your knees into the spaces created by your armpits on both sides (e). Lift one foot off the ground, then return it to the mat. Repeat on opposite side.
Once you’re feeling strong in modified crow, it’s time to try the real deal. One pro tip from McGee: Make sure your shoulders are pulled back and down — don’t slouch! Then, engage your abdominal muscles to hold yourself in position. Before you know it, you’ll be flying.
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How to: Get into a deep yoga squat, toes slightly turned out, heels on the ground (a). With your arms between your knees, plant your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, elbows pulled in near the sides of your body (b). Pull shoulders away from ears (c). Transition onto the balls of your feet, lifting your butt into the air (d). Walk your feet in closer to your body, until you can fit your knees into the spaces created by your armpits (e). Shift your weight forward towards your fingertips (f). Float your toes up into the air, keeping your gaze directed at the mat. Aim to hold the pose for a few seconds, gradually adding time as your body grows stronger.
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Originally published July 2015. Updated August 2016.