Eka Pada Bakasana I Pose Study

November 21, 2018

Teaching Eka Pada Bakasana I (One Foot Crane/Crow Pose) is complicated for teachers, so it’s often glazed over as an option for more advanced students who have sorted it out. However, I’ve made it my personal aim to give students tools to help them learn just how postures like this one come together. Not all poses will work in every single student body in class but the journey should be as inclusive as possible. Sometimes the addition of a prop drill can set off light bulbs for people that cues to the pose don’t.

Here’s the nitty gritty:

BKS Iyengar in Light On Yoga

Study the final shape of the pose. Students will need to have the capacity to deeply flex their hip, knee, spine and extend their wrists in eka pada bakasana. The outer arm is straight, hence the need to deeply extend the wrist. The back leg is nearly level with the floor and not angled upward.

Key Actions:

- Press your shin against the ledge of the bending upper arm.
This will help your anterior core turn on, contracting the front of your trunk and provide some leverage.

In Practice: Pressing the shin against the arm in the hand balance can be introduced in the front foot of a standing pose- pressing the foot down and forward to get a lift on the front of the flexing hip and tone to the low belly.

- Firm your straight leg buttocks.
Squeezing your butt here will assist in lifting the leg up behind you because of the role they play in hip extension.

In Practice: Engage your buttocks during Tadasana (mountain pose) and the times you have a leg coming back behind you. Some examples are Tadasana, high lunge, Anjaneasana (low lunge), Virabhadrasana I, III, and Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing split).

- Shift your chest forward.
Taking the chest up will negate the feeling of tucking for a forward roll and landing on your head and can assist in straightening the outer arm.

In Practice: Sphinx Pose, you know, the barely there chest opener performed laying in a prone position propped on your forearms? It is not that gratifying of a chest opening but it hits the mark on how much you are looking for in the hand balance. Repeat this in lunges with your fingers on the floor or on blocks. Repeat in salabhasana with arms back.

- Aim bent leg foot toward your center.
A common approach is to get your leg on your arm however possible. If you go for the inner thigh on the arm the attempt at eka pada bakasana will fail because that sets you up for more of a backbend. Instead think of the shape your legs make in Balasana (child’s pose). Your bent knee will be out wider than the foot, as if your toes were touching in child’s pose.

In Practice: Balasana. This can do double duty if you also press both shins into the floor while you are here. Also from a 3 legged Down Dog practice tapping the lifting leg knee upon the tricep on the arm on the same side of the body with toes pointing toward belly rather than outward. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Prep (one leg king pigeon either upright or forward bending) with the front leg deeply angled inward.

eka pada bakasana I

In general for Eka Pada Bakasana I (my goodness, can your believe there is actually a II?!) you’ll want to warm up as usual. The wrists will eventually be receiving a lot of weight so best to do step back or jump out transitions for your standing poses as to not overload them with a ton of vinyasas. Consider the key actions and tips above to repeat throughout your sequence leading to the hand balance.

Insert into your practice the following core sequence. Below I have a grid to follow from top to bottom, left to right.

In the top left image you’ll do repetitions of lifting opposite limbs while using your deep core to hold the spine and hips in as neutral a position as possible.

Underneath is a moving forearm plank. Scoop your buttocks down towards your heels while simultaneously dragging chest up like sphinx. Keep that alignment as your shift forward and back on your feet like a train on a track backing up and moving forward. This will strengthen your anterior core and shoulders.

Next is 2 stages of Navasana (boat pose). In the top image hands are cupping the backs of the thighs so you can press legs into hands thereby making space in the closing hip. Simultaneously pull in with hands to lift chest (about as much as sphinx again). The bottom left image is after you’ve done that work and can now maintain it.

Top right perform repetitions of Lolasana (dangling earring) with hands on blocks. Keep blocks on low so you are stable. Make sure to repeat with other ankle crossed over.

After that stack the blocks low height 2 deep. Place your shin on the stack and walk hands far enough forward to mimic a table top shape. The trunk then attempts neutral curves as you start working key actions. Press shin into blocks, firm buttocks of straight leg and lift it, and drag chest forward and up.

Last drill is similar to above. The only difference is the hands are closer to the block set up making for more of a flexed spine. Repeat the same key actions.

Attempt Eka Pada Bakasana I:
From a high lunge, fold forward and place hands shoulder distance apart. Step your right foot back at least 1 foot. Bend your right arm only and lay right shin against the upper arm. All together press shin down, firm left buttock, shift chest forward and press hands down.

eka pada bakasana I sequence

You’ll want to balance yourself out with salabahasana and setu bandasana,

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