If you've been to even one yoga class, you're probably aware of bakasana (AKA crow pose)—it's one of the first arm balances many people try, and for this reason, it can be daunting. But the asana isn't as hard as it looks, swears Y7 Studio co-founder Sarah Levey. Plus, it offers some serious total-body benefits. "You're working on balance, arm strength, and [your] core," says the yogi.
Still, what makes it so effective as a toning exercise can also be undone by improper technique (something that happens to even advanced practitioners), Levey says. "I see a lot of people dumping all of their weight into the arms, which makes the body seem super heavy," she explains. "You should be squeezing the body in and lifting through the chest to engage the core."
What happens if you don't—other than a less-than-effective workout? "You can fall flat on your face," Levey cautions. "I've seen someone come close to breaking their nose. Eek!" But rather than develop a fear of flying, she says there are a few things you can do instead to help you nail the pose and reap its full-body benefits.
Below, she explains proper technique for executing crow pose safely.
Begin in a Malasana squat, feet wider than the hips and toes pointed outward, opening your hips with your elbows.
Place both hands down on the ground.
Set your knees on the backs of your arms as close to the armpit as possible. Bend your arms, creating a kind of shelf. Lean slightly forward, shifting the weight onto your hands.
Pick your right foot up.
Then, lift your left foot off the ground to meet the right, toes touching together. Keep your gaze on the ground in front of your fingers and engage your core by squeezing your inner thighs together to create a lifting sensation through the mid-body.
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