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parsva bakasana - side crow pose

 

Parsva Bakasana: Side Crow Pose


Parsva Bakasana (parsh-vah bahk-AHS-anna), or Side Crow pose, is an arm balancing posture requiring a deep twist in the torso to achieve lift. The posture becomes more comprehensible when deconstructed, but many may find that mastering it takes patience. This posture tones the belly and spine. As an arm balance, Side Crow gives the gift of confidence, balance, and focus.

Philosophy + Origin

Often referred to as the Crow pose, Bakasana actually translates to Crane pose, which may conjure up much more attractive symbolism. Crow pose, or Kakasana, is a slightly different pose. In Kakasana, the arms are bent; in Bakasana, the arms are straight. As the arms straighten into Bakasana, the imagery becomes much clearer – the arms long and graceful; the body still and regal. In Asian cultures, especially Japan, the crane represents happiness, eternal youth, good fortune, and longevity. And while the crow is thought to be a harbinger of bad luck or misfortune, in many cultures it symbolizes magic, mystery, intelligence, and destiny.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Start with your feet on a block to help make lifting up a bit easier.
  • Use a block or bolster under your forehead. You can start with your head resting on the prop as you begin to lift your feet, or continue to rest the head to gain confidence in your balance.
  • Although you can access this pose more easily by placing your outer hip on your elbow, working to get the hip to hover is a better long-term practice for the safety of your shoulders.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Wrist, hip or lower back injury

TIPS:

Hidden within Parsva Bakasana are a few familiar poses that can help you understand what’s needed to successfully practice Side Crow. First, Parsva Bakasana is a deep twist. If you’re not twisting enough in the pose, you won’t be able to get the outside of your upper arm far enough around the outside of your opposite thigh. Next, your legs need to be in a deep squat position with both adductors strongly squeezing the inner thighs together. Finally, your arms need to find the Chaturanga strength and shape as you lower into the pose.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Standing at the top end of your mat, come into a squat position with your thighs level with the floor. Start to twist by hooking your left elbow as far around your right thigh as possible. Exhale to deepen the torso twist and work to position the lower left ribs as close as possible to your right thigh.
  2. Draw your left arm down toward the floor so the armpit is as close as possible to your right thigh. As you do this, continue to keep your right shoulder deep in the twist. Once you’ve twisted as much you can, begin to press your upper left arm against your right thigh. Hold your arm against your thigh as best as you can throughout the pose.
  3. Deepen the squat so you can land the palm of your left hand on the floor just outside your right foot. Start to lean to the right until the palm of that hand lays flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. As you move your hands to the ground, make sure your upper left arm and right outer thigh are touching. At this point the majority of your weight should not be in your hands.
  4. Engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor (mula bandha), begin to lift your pelvis up, shifting it a bit to the right so that the navel aligns just above and in between your hands. Bring more and more weight into your hands until the feet start to lift up easily, almost like floating.
  5. Keep the feet together as they lift and flex the toes. Move your heels closer to your glutes as you take the left hip down to help encourage both feet to lift up. Straighten your arms as best you can, using your core to hold your legs in place. Lift through your heart while bringing your gaze forward. Your breathing should be even and natural.
  6. Work up to a hold of 30-seconds or more. When ready, lower the feet down to your mat on an exhalation. Come back to stand at the top of your mat, then repeat on the other side.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Eka Pada Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
  • Gomukhasana
  • Marichyasana I
  • Pasasana
  • Utkatasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Baddha Konasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Savasana
  • Uttanasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Parsva = side
  • Baka = crane
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens and tones arms and shoulders
  • Engages and strengthens the core
  • Improves balance
  • Increases the strength of the hands and wrists

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Focuses mind and energy
  • Boosts confidence

MANTRA:

“Mangala Mantra”

A chant for bringing the crane’s good fortune into your life, you can also dedicate the Mangala mantra to someone in need of happiness and good fortune. Memorizing this mantra can take some time — practicing with a recitation can be helpful. The mantra is:
svasti prajabhyah paripalayantam nyayena margena mahim mahishah | gobrahmanebhyah shubham astu nityam lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu ||

MUDRA: Prana Mudra

A symbol for energy and life, practicing this mudra is said to boost longevity, increase energy, and improve health. To practice, place the tip of the thumb against the tips of the ring and pinky finger. Keep your other two fingers straight up. For best results, practice for 30 minutes each day while meditating.

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