Yoga: Prepare for the challenging Crow Pose
Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, takes you through five poses which will prepare you for the difficult crow pose.
Arm balancers in yoga develop more than just your body. They develop your mind as well. They fine-tune the nervous system, helping you deal with nervous system disorders like panic attacks, anxiety disorders, phobic shyness, social awkwardness, stuttering etc. They also help develop mental focus, fight distraction and deal with addictions.
Therefore, arm balancers should be an integral part of your yoga training and practice. Everyday practice must always include an arm balance. However, it must always be learnt from an expert, because you need to get the technique right.
You can prepare for the crow pose with some of these practices, so that you are ready to learn them without difficulty. For arm-balancers, your arm strengths is crucial. Other strengths include that of the wrists, upper back and breath. Flexibility is also crucial to get yourself into the pose. Another core area that needs to be fine-tuned is mental focus.
The poses given below are safe. For learning the crow itself, you need to practice with an expert who can guide you step-by-step into the pose.
For more of Shameem's yoga writings visit http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com. Follow Shameem's yoga products on her online shop Yogatique on Rediff Shopping here. Shameem's second book Yoga in the Workplace, with photographs by ace photographer Fawzan Husain, is now available at online shops and bookshops across the country.
Disclaimer: This column just shares the columnist's passion for yoga which is ideally learned under the guidance of an expert.
Image: The crow pose
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Marjariasana (cat stretch, the push-up variation)
Get down on your fours, like a cat. Place your ankles over each other, behind you. Place palms lightly inside, under either shoulder. Inhale, exhale with your chest over the hands. Inhale, lift chest up once more. This is one round. Do up to five rounds initially. Slowly you may increase the number of times you do this, so that you can go up to 10-20 times at a stretch.
Benefits: Develops upper body focus. Makes wrists strong. Arms are also strengthened for the pose. Flexibility of the upper back also will help you with other advanced poses.
Image: Marjariasana (cat stretch, the push-up variation)
Setuasana (Plank pose)
Sit on your fours. Walk knees back, going up on the toes, so the body is straight behind as shown in image. Pushing palms into the ground, lift hips off and also the knees so that you are in the classic push-up position. Hold for awhile. If you do not suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems, you can hold your breath for that duration also. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat thrice.
Benefits: Same as the cat stretch, only more enhanced.
Image: Setuasana (Plank pose)
Parvatasana (Mountain pose)
Also called adhomukha svanasana or downward facing dog. Sit in the cat pose, walk feet a bit back. Lift knees off the ground. Press down from the shoulders. Focus eyes on stomach, or between the toes. Hold for as long as possible. Breathe continuously. To release pose, drop back on your knees. Repeat thrice.
Benefits: This is a complete body workout. Therapeutic for low blood pressure and high blood pressure. Prepares you for many advanced poses.
Image: Parvatasana (Mountain pose)
Kalisasana (Goddess pose)
Sit in a full squat, feet flat on the ground. Hands together in prayer pose at chest. Inhale, pressing hands out, at elbows against the knees. Exhale, collapse knees back to center, pressing them in with the knees. These two movements creates a counter pressure and resistance training. This is one round. Do up to ten rounds.
Benefits: Improves strength. Makes the body flexible, and helps you get into the squat, which is the key pose for many of the crow variations, including the classic crow.
Image: Kalisasana (Goddess pose)
Urdhvamukha svanasana (Upward facing dog pose)
Lie prone on your stomach. Place palms under either shoulder. Legs must be straight out behind. Inhale, push palms into ground, lifting entire body off the ground. Knees also lift off. Arch neck, looking up. Arch the spine also, so the lower back feels intense pressure. Straighten arms, keep them close to the body. Hold for five seconds, breathing continuously. Release and drop back body gently back to ground. Rest for few seconds on stomach, ideally in the crocodile pose (makarasana) and then repeat twice more.
Benefits: Makes arms strong and tones legs, preparing you for advanced posture. Develops strength throughout. Builds mental stamina. Makes the body flexible. Is said to sweeten the voice. Helps lose weight.
Image: Urdhvamukha svanasana (Upward facing dog pose)