Side Crow Pose, Parsva Bakasana, (PARSH-vuh bah-KAH-suh-nuh)
parsva (side or flank) + baka (crane ‘through commonly translated as “crow”) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Side Crane Pose
Pose Type: Twisting, Balancing, Strengthening, Core Activating
This powerful arm balance will challenge the most committed yogi. Be patient with yourself as you foster your practice to achieve this pose.
Side Crow Pose Fundamentals
Challenge yourself and learn to fly with this advanced arm balance pose. Side Crow is a fantastic asana to learn if you want to work on your core and arm strength. It will also inspire that child-like sense of accomplishment once you are able to lift both legs off the ground.
Side Crow is a variation of the classic Crow Pose, and takes it up a notch by including a twist. For this reason, it may be best to attempt it only after you’ve been working on your Crow Pose for a while. Still, we are all different, and some students find this variation to be even easier than standard Crow. Try both poses and see what progression makes most sense to you.
The combination of deep twisting and working on strength makes Side Crow a fantastic option for building whole body strength and endurance. It is also a good position to add in periods when you want to work on building your courage, confidence, and patience.
The more you’re able to engage and contract your abdominal muscles, the easier it will be to hold Side Crow. Make sure you perform a good warm-up before attempting it, to prepare your shoulders and activate your core.
This pose is just as challenging for your mind as it is for your body. Finding your focus and clearing your mind from all thoughts is essential to being able to achieve Side Crow. Meanwhile, once you get a hang of the pose and find your sweet spot, it becomes much easier.
The increased self-esteem this pose brings doesn’t only come simply because you succeeded in doing something new. Side Crow also stimulates the Solar Plexus Chakra, the seat of our confidence and willpower.
Finally, Side Crow may also help you find balance, both physically and emotionally. By rooting your fingers into the ground, you will begin to understand how you can ground yourself to remain calm when you’re tackling difficult situations.
Side Crow Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the core (particularly the obliques), arms, wrists, back, and shoulders.
- Stretches the spine and improves its range of motion. The longer you hold it, the more your spine will open. With longer holds, your wrists will also get a good stretch.
- Improves mental and physical coordination, by challenging you to learn to simultaneously balance your weight on your arms, find your center of gravity and prevent your body from falling over your arms.
- The twisting action opens the upper front body, which may help you breathe more efficiently.
- Improves concentration by encouraging you to connect with your body and focus on subtle details and movements in order to hold the pose.
- Improves self-confidence both mentally – by giving you a sense of accomplishment, even by only attempting it; and energetically – by stimulating the Solar Plexus Chakra.
- Increases blood flow to the internal organs in the pelvis and abdomen, which may help boost the function of the digestive and reproductive systems.
- Stimulates the circulatory and nervous systems, helping to improve circulation and bringing a sense of refreshed energy but also a state of inner calmness.
How To Do Side Crow Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin in Chair Pose, with your hands on your chest in the Prayer position.
2. Take a breath in, and with your exhalation, twist your torso to the right. You can push the left elbow against the right knee to deepen the twist, while still keeping your hands in Prayer.
3. You can use this position as one of your preparatory asanas, to open your back for the twist. If you want to do so, hold it for a couple of breaths before you proceed to the next step.
4. Still maintaining the twist, release the position of your hands and place your palms on the ground to the right of your body.
5. Press your thighs and knees firmly together and lift your heels off the ground.
6. Place your left elbow between your right knee and hip, and place your right hand next to your outer right hip.
7. Simultaneously engage your abdomen, gaze slightly in front of your hands, and begin to tilt towards the left arm. At one point, your feet will automatically come off the ground.
8. In this full expression of the pose, only the left arm bears the weight of your torso. If that’s too challenging, check out the variations below to modify the pose.
9. Stay in the pose as long as you can. In the beginning, you might be able to only hold it for a brief moment, and that’s OK. You can attempt it several times but do it slowly and consciously.
10. To release the pose, come back to the center and relax in Downward Facing Dog or Child’s Pose. Then, repeat the same steps on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Spread your fingers wide and try to distribute the weight of your body on your entire hands. This will help you with balance.
- Keep the wrists horizontal to the ground to balance the pressure between the inner and outer wrists. Focusing on this action will also prevent you from splaying your elbows outward.
- Keep your gaze slightly in front of your body – find a still point to look at, to help you with balance.
- The more you engage your abs, the easier the pose becomes. Make sure you do some core exercises before trying the pose to activate the abdominal muscles.
- Improve your stability in the pose by keeping the feet, knees, and thighs together.
- Rest your feet on a block if you want to hold the pose for longer, but aren’t able to do so with your feet off the ground. Doing this will help you build strength in the upper body.
Side Crow Pose Variation:
Side Crow Pose Variation: Supporting Weight On Both Arms
Managing your weight on only one arm requires a deeper twist and more strength. If that’s too difficult for you, try balancing your body on both arms. Once you’re able to hold this variation for some time and feel stable, you can proceed to the full expression of the pose.
Make sure your elbows are in one line and are not splaying out or in when attempting the pose. Perform all steps as you did on the other side, but once you begin to lower your torso, balance it on both elbows, pressing your right knee on the left elbow, and the right side of your chest on the right elbow.
Side Crow Pose Variation: Side Crow With Blocks
The previous variation is slightly easier than the full expression of the pose, but it still requires a lot of strength. If this is your first time attempting Side Crow, use blocks for support.
Place your arms in the Chaturanga position and put a yoga block under each shoulder. Place your hands behind the block, and begin leaning your torso towards the elbows. At the same time, lower your shoulders and rest them on the blocks.
This variation will take some weight off your shoulders. It will also help you feel more confident if you’re afraid you’ll tip over your shoulders and fall. If you still don’t feel confident, you can also place a pillow in front of you to cushion you if you fall, or place another block under your forehead.
Side Crow Pose Variation: Side Crow With Straight Legs
After mastering Side Crow, you can also take it a step further in this advanced variation.
Once you feel stable in Side Crow, begin to straighten your legs out to the side. This variation gives you another level of challenge to work with and is tremendously helpful if you’re looking to work on other arm balances like Fallen Angel or Sage Kaundinya’s Pose (Eka Pada Koundinyasana I).
Precautions & Contraindications:
Compressing your Wrists. Your wrists are vulnerable. Make sure you support them and protect them from injury by spreading your fingers wide.
Dropping the Head. Dropping your head may lead you to lose balance. Make sure your neck is active, and you’re keeping your gaze in front of you rather than directly below you.
Elbows open to the sides. Keep your elbows parallel to each other and aligned with the wrists and shoulders to protect your wrists.
Injuries and Surgery
This is an advanced pose and isn’t appropriate for students who don’t have strength in their core, shoulders, and arms. Those who recently injured or had surgery on the wrists, elbows, back, and shoulders should also avoid it. Those with old injuries in these areas should talk with their physician or yoga teacher before attempting the pose. Finally, refrain from the pose if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or any other condition related to the nerves in the arms and shoulders.
Sage Kaundinya’s Pose
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