Crane pose, or Bakasana, is one of the most challenging positions the yoga asana practice has to offer. Often confounded with crow pose, or Kakasana, crane is a much more advanced posture. Both are excellent core prep for handstand, but crane will really take your inversion and arm balancing skills to a new level. Crane will increase the power of your upper back, shoulders, arms, wrists and, my favorite, the core (both the rectus abdominis, or six-pack abs, and the transverse abdominis, or “corset” muscles).
To get into Bakasana come down into a squat, heels and toes together, knees splayed to hip-width or slightly wider. Extend your arms forward, taking your palms flat to the mat, shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows, lift your hips, tilt the torso forward and snuggle your knees into your armpits (you’ll have to rise onto the balls of your feet). Pull belly button to spine, engaging the abdominals and lean forward, squeezing knees to upper arms until your toes take flight. Gaze forward and down, keeping a long neck, draw in and up on your pelvic floor (think Kegels or holding in your pee) and actively hug heels to booty to keep your weight stacked over your wrists. Beginners can keep arms slightly bent while they develop the core and shoulder girdle strength required to straighten out.
To be in the full expression of crane involves engaging your Mula Bandha (root lock) and Uddiyana Bandha (upward flying lock). Bandhas are a complex topic that I would be more than happy to elaborate on for anyone that is interested. MindBodyGreen had a great overview of the topic a couple of years ago as well: “Bandhas for Beginners.” It is the control and connection of the Mula and Uddiyana Bandhas that empowers advanced yogis to press from crane into handstand. I’m not there yet, but a girl can aspire!
Enjoy playing with this challenge pose and please contact me with any questions. Now go play!