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Day 12 Takes Flight January 22, 2011

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 21-Day Challenge, Books, Changing Perspectives, Fitness, Health, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philosophy, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Yoga.
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Day 12

It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.

– Winston Churchill, 1939

Crow Pose: People love it, hate it, or dread it. Some folks practice it religiously, while others avoid it at all costs. And, within both groups are the people who are continually mystified by the riddle of the name: Is it Bakasana or Kakasana?**

When it comes to the physical practice of the pose, I fall into the “love it/practice it religiously” category. My love affair with Crow undoubtedly started in Texas, but I became aware of my affinity for the pose when I was going through teacher training. Because of my experiences practicing in Texas, my Crow looked very different from the ones I saw in Minneapolis. My heart was pointed forward (instead of back), my bottom and hips were low to the ground (instead of pointed up in the air), and my back was flat (instead of rounded). Additionally, I couldn’t hold the pose for any significant amount of time, because I couldn’t get past the idea that my arms, legs, and hips were somehow ill-formed for the pose. After a little Q&A session with Kai Trinh, one of the teachers leading the training, I realized I had to trust my practice – and trust that it was right were it needed to be. I also realized three of my big reasons for loving Crow:

    • It’s a pose that illustrates the difference between practicing yoga and just getting some exercise. Sure, you can muscle into this pose, but to stay here, and breath here, requires more than brute strength.
    • Practicing this pose, even when fully modified with both feet on the floor, requires a person to confront doubts and fears – in particular, the literal and figurative fear of “falling on your face.”
    • To do this pose, you have to lead with your heart, get your ego out of the way, and let go of the fears and doubts that hold you down. It can feel like you’re defying gravity when, in fact, you’re just playing with it.

      When I first started teaching, my regulars could count on me throwing Crow Pose into the mix fairly early on, without a whole lot of preliminaries. I’d get the body integrated and warmed up, then I’d start the flying lessons. One of the reasons I did this was for the energetic benefit of an arm balance early in the practice. Another reason I did it is my fourth big reason for loving Crow:

      • There’s some many places you can go! In Light On Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar suggests that advanced students move into the arm balance** from Salamba Sirsasana II (Supported “Tripod” Headstand). If however, your Tripod is in it’s early stages and you’re still developing the core strength to lift the legs, then a great practice is mindfully moving from Crow into the first stage of Tripod (with knees on the forearms) – and then back again. You can also use Crow as the prep for Crane** and a number of other arm balances. Plus, there’s the ever popular practice of “floating” into Chaturanga.

      Even though one of my favorite teaching moments was guiding a high school football coach into a full expression of Crow, after he’d said he was too heavy to do it, I’ve spent more time focused on the energetic and emotional aspects of getting into the pose than on the physical. Last year, however, I tried out a Rodney Yee video featuring hip openers and arm balances. The video introduced me to some new ways of getting into the pose. It was also a big light bulb moment, that flashed me back to teacher training: legs and hips are as much a part of the key to demystifying this pose as the heart, core, and breath – not to mention the arms.

      Jason Crandell’s 30-Minute Peak Pose Sequence leading to Bakasana (Crow Pose**) beautifully opens up the body on a physical level. A good portion of the video focused on the hips and the leg muscles connected to the hips. There was also a good deal of core and arm engagement, plus some upper back opening. Unfortunately, there were also some technical difficulties – which left my body a little cold and my arms burning (from holding plank poses after a full day teaching them). One thing I will say about this sequence and the way Crandell guides it, however, is that when I was moving through it, I was building heat.

      The downside to the downloading issues a lot of people experienced on Day 12 was partially canceled out, in my book, by the fact that I had to keep repeating (and holding!!!) the poses in the first 4 minutes of the video. So, my hip flexors were seriously flexed. This made my legs super ready for the deep seated meditation I did after practicing with the video. Another plus, to the unfortunate technology problems: I found another Yoga Journal video featuring Jason Crandell opening up the hips. Boy am I looking forward to that!

      Day 12 was one of those days when I wished I could have downloaded the video and practiced it away from my computer. Instead, I started the day with my mini-meditation and then practiced the sequence I was going to teach. I was a little hungry and super tired when I arrived home, but it felt really good to do this video sequence. As far as my outer body was concerned, I was ready to rock the 18-Minute Meditation. Internally, however, I was a wreck. This was my worse meditating day yet. Every 5 minutes, or so, I had to remind myself to sit still, sit up, and stop thinking/day dreaming/planning/remembering….Of course, the fact that I kept pulling myself back to the moment and back to the meditation makes it a success in the practice column.

       

      **NOTE: In vinyasa and many other hatha yoga practices, Crow Pose is an arm balance where the arms are bent, a la Chaturanga, and the knees rest on the forearms (or are tucked into the armpits). This is the pose featured in the Day 12 video. Crane Pose is a similar arm balance where the arms are straight. Bakasana is a Sanskrit word for Crane Pose, but is often used in the West for Crow Pose – which, in Sanskrit, would be Kakasana. Some traditions make the distinction between the two poses, their names, and the birds they resemble. Of course, the more traditions you explore, the more translations you find – and the more poses you find. For example, “Flying Frog” is a modification where the knees/legs are outside the arms, squeezing in. And, even though actual cranes aren’t scientifically related to actual herons (or actual crows), I’ve heard Heron Pose (a seated pose) referred to as Crane Pose.

        ~ NAMASTE ~

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