Like most yoga practitioners, Kakasana (crow pose) was the first arm balance I was exposed to. The immense joy and satisfaction I felt on my first lift were unforgettable, and even more so the journey to Kakasana.
I was first introduced to this pose during one of the usual weekly studio classes. The yoga instructor got into this pose so effortlessly, and went on to explain that Kakasana is the most basic arm balance pose and majority of the students will be able to do it after few tries.
I had my reservations on that claim but went ahead to follow the instructions on how to get into the pose. True enough, I was not even close to getting into the full pose despite multiple tries during that class and even weeks after that. The instructions from the teacher were clear and simple:
- From Malasana, place your palms in front of you on the mat, think Chaturanga arms
- Lift your hips, place both knees as high up on the arm as possible (armpits or triceps)
- Lean your weight forward, and lift!
Sounds easy right?
Nope, I couldn’t do it. The daily attempts at Kakasana resulted in countless face plants on the ground, huge dark bruises on my triceps, and even bigger bruises to my ego.
I started questioning myself:
Is my bum too big? Is it too heavy that I can’t lift up?
Are my arms too flabby and weak that I can’t hold my weight?
Why am I so weak? Why is it that everyone could do it except me?
All these insecurities started creeping up on me. I became obsessed and started looking for tips online, watching countless youtube videos on “how to Kakasana”, and always replying “crow pose” whenever various yoga instructors asked “Are there any poses you guys wanna work on today?” I started hitting the gym to do weights training, hoping to improve my arm strength, and doing HIIT workouts to improve overall body and core strength. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so goal-oriented. I guess in a good way, this is considered Bhakti Yoga? As time passed, I managed to lift both feet off the ground but only for a split second before tumbling down (Yes, not even ONE full second!). I gave credits to the body conditioning I was doing, but somewhere in me still believed that something was missing.
One day, I chanced upon a “2-Hr Crow Workshop” and decided to give it a try. I went with an open mind (no ego, no insecurities), and learnt so much! I gained new perspectives and even though I still could not fly at the end of the 2-Hr workshop, I had so many takeaways and continued my daily practice.
Alas, one fine day at home, I lifted! I was squatting in Malasana, moving into Kakasana, when my dog decided to sprint up to me from the side and my mind went “No way! Fight or flight?! “Fight” being coming back down into Malasana and just let him crash into me (he’s compact but weighs 15kg so I decided this is not a good idea! “Flight” (pun intended) in this case means lifting up my legs so high and shifting my weight forward so much such that he dashes past under my legs (By the way my corgi is only about 13cm tall, minus his upright ears).” Isn’t it amazing how much thoughts go through our mind in just a split second? My instinct there and then was to take flight and up I went, held in Kakasana for a good 5 seconds with my dog’s upright ears brushing past my toes! *Throws confetti*
Was it my dog that helped trigger this? To small extent, maybe.
It is the main takeaway from the 2-Hr Crow Workshop which I had been working on that enabled me to lift steadily and hold in Kakasana. And that, which all of us are pretty familiar with right now, is the protraction and depression of the shoulders! It made such a huge difference! The protraction and depression of the shoulders lifted the body weight so much such that there is minimal weight on your triceps. I no longer have bruises on my triceps after applying this technique. And this, is the basis to most arm balances. I wish I had known this technique earlier and could have avoided the physical, emotional and mental roller coaster ride over a good 6 months?? But as they say, what matters is the journey and the rest is history. Truth be told, I had enjoyed the journey of “searching” for answers and knowing my body better, inside out.
To those who are currently working on Kakasana or any arm balances, remember to work on the protraction and depression of the shoulders and feel the difference! And don’t forget, to always keep an open mind and do not let ego get in your way!
Each and every body is different and there is really no need to compare with the person beside you. Our body is an amazing vessel which can do amazing things when you least expect it. So keep trying and do not give up because achieving the peak pose is secondary; the mind and body have already benefited from the moving meditation.
With peace and love,