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How to Do Crow Pose in Yoga


Article by Hayley Hyer

Photography by Stock Images

Crow pose is one of the first arm balances you usually learn in yoga, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It takes a lot of core strength—and trust in yourself! But, even if you can't do it yet, you can keep working on it a little bit at a time. Here's how I teach crow pose in a class, one step at a time.

  1. Start in a forward fold with your head and arms hanging down in front of you and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Bend your knees as much as you need to so you can rest your palms firmly on your mat and press any air bubbles out from under your palms. Spread your fingers out wide.
  3. Keeping your knees bent, lift your heels up. You will feel like you are doing a squat from your tip-toes with your hands flat on the ground. Your hips will naturally shift upward.
  4. Bend your elbows and squeeze them into the sides of your ribcage. Keep all of your fingers facing forward. Do not turn your hands out to the side.
  5. Keep bending your elbows until you have a nice little shelf for your knees. On your tip-toes, walk your feet in closer until you can work your knees up toward your armpits, resting them on your triceps.
  6. The more you can get your knees up to your armpits, the easier this will be. Note that if you have sleeves on, your knees may start to slip down. It's easiest to try this with bare arms and leggings that are slightly sweaty so you have a natural grip.
  7. Look far out in front of your hands on the ground to stabilize your balance and hold your gaze there.
  8. Engage your core like crazy to keep pulling your knees up. Keep squeezing your elbows in.

You will look like this:

Every body is different, so you don't have to look exactly like this. But use this photo to check your alignment—elbows over wrists, hips over knees, gaze out in front, etc.

Even with your toes still on the ground, you are doing crow pose! There is no right or wrong. You did it. However, if you'd like to play around with your crow and try flying, you can start to lift one foot off of the ground. Maybe you set it down and try out the other foot.

If you feel ready to lift both feet off of the ground, here's how:

  1. Shift your weight forward into your thumb and pointer finger. Keep the rest of your fingers spread out wide.
  2. Look far out in front of you. If you look down between your arms, you will do a somersault, so look forward!
  3. Keep squeezing your elbows in, engage your triceps, and pull your core up really tight. (But breathe!)
  4. As you pull your core up toward your ribcage, start to lift one foot off of the ground and shift the weight into your knee that is hooked into your armpit. This may hurt your tricep a little the first few times you do it.
  5. Slowly draw the other foot up in the same way and keep holding your core strong!

Even if you just get your feet off of the ground for a few seconds, that's something to be proud of. The more you do it, the longer you will be able to hold the balance. And your triceps will get used to the weight and not hurt as much too. Just remember to keep looking forward and slowly follow your gaze with your body. It's not a jump or a big push off of the ground.

Tip: If you have yoga blocks at home or even a pillow or a seat cushion, you can put it in front of your head. If you start to feel nervous about tipping too far forward, you will have something to land on.

You can also use a yoga block, a tall book, or a footstool as a perch under your feet if you need some help getting your knees up into your armpits. Again, everyone's body looks different in this pose, and it all depends on how long your limbs are in proportion to the rest of you. But your crow pose is beautifully yours, so own it!

Follow Hayley Hyer @hayhyer