Want to learn more about Bakasana, aka Crane Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Bakasana, a complete yoga pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, modifications and more.
While this pose’s close relative Kakasana is often one of the first arm balances students are taught in class, the straight-armed version we are looking at here, Crane Pose, in my experience, is rarely considered in public classes.
Way back in about 2010, I was practicing yoga on the lawn at The Americana, a fancy indoor-outdoor mall like only Los Angeles can do. I wasn’t alone. Keric Morinaga, my first yoga teacher, was leading a class on the lawn for lululemon, who had a store at the mall.
He was teaching a superhero theme (if you like superheroes and yoga, go check out his website. I’ll wait for you). In this particular class, he was encouraging us to lift ourselves up, to hold ourselves up, so we could fly.
And there on the lawn I did. For the first time ever I pressed and lifted and focused, and dreamed REALLY FUCKING BIG and transitioned from Kakasana into Bakasana into Adho Mukha Vrksasana! (Crow —> Crane —> Handstand). I really was a superhero in that moment, and the lesson was that we all are superheroes, always.
We just have to remember it and sometimes dig pretty deep to release our inner super.
There’s something transformative about a really inspiring teacher, a great theme, practicing together with 50+ people, and being outdoors in the sunshine. Practicing on the grass, and therefore having a softer-than-normal landing pad, helped too!
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Vasisthasana Quick Facts
|English||Crane Pose (or sometimes Crow Pose)|
|Meaning||Baka means crane.|
Asana means pose or posture.
Bakasana means Crane Pose. The pose is said to resemble a crane wading through water.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Bakasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Bakasana include:
- Strengthens arms so they can hold your body weight.
- Strengthens core to help hold you up.
- Strengthens glutes and adductors.
- Strengthens shoulder stabilisers.
- Prepares you for most other arm balances.
- It helps make your wrists stronger.
- Stretches your upper back and groin.
- Your spine is toned and strengthened.
- The pose can improve your sense of balance and focus.
- Helps to build confidence, courage and combat fear.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
- If you have a wrist injury, you may want to avoid the pose. You could also use a yoga wedge to reduce strain. See Modifications below.
- If you have any injury to your hips, knees, wrists or shoulders, then it is best to avoid practicing the full expression of Bakasana. Modify the pose with props or support instead. See Modifications section below.
- If you have a hiatal hernia, you should heal fully before attempting this pose.
- If you have vertigo, this pose will likely be difficult.
- Caution is recommended for students with heart problems, carpal tunnel syndrome or cerebral thrombosis.
- Avoid if suffering from spondylitis.
- If you have blood pressure difficulties it is likely best to avoid this pose.
Misconceptions & Myths About Crane Pose
Crow Pose v Crane Pose
When I started practicing yoga, my teachers didn’t differentiate between the names of the poses Bakasana and Kakasana.
And that’s actually quite normal. When teachers offer the variation of this arm balance with bent arms, they often call it Bakasana. However, the bent-arm version is a different pose, called Crow Pose, or Kakasana. It’s a super common myth that I am guilty of perpetuating myself.
Myth? Yup! Bakasana, or Crane Pose, is done with straight arms and your knees high up the back of your arms.
Kakasana, or Crow Pose, is a similar arm balance, but is done with bent elbows. It’s not technically a modification of Bakasana, but a pose in its own right.
While some yoga lineages might not differentiate between the names for these asanas, Dharma Mittra makes a distinction, citing Kakasana as being with arms bent (like the shorter legs of a crow) and Bakasana with arms straight (like the longer legs of a crane).
In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar only describe Bakasana, and he describes it as being practiced with straight arms. He doesn’t even include Kakasana in the text.
Yet in Sivananda Yoga, Swami Vishnudevananda’s 1960 Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga describes only Kakasana, with bent arms.
History of Bakasana
Bakasana is first documented in the Hatha Ratnavali, a 17th century text which lists Bakasana as number 62 of the 84 poses said to have been taught by Shiva.
The Meaning of the Crane
In some parts of Asia the crane is seen as a symbol of eternal youth, happiness, and prosperity.
I don’t recommend you try and jump into the pose. By that I mean don’t try to hop your feet off the floor. First, you need to transfer all your weight in your arms, followed by lifting your feet slowly and carefully off the ground. No jumping! Practice precision.
Bakasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Bakasana / Crane Pose
There are several different options for entering Bakasana. Here are a few:
- Starting in Malasana (Squat/Garland Pose), and moving from Kakasana into Bakasana
- Starting in Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
- Starting in Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
- Starting in Sirsasana 2 (Tripod Headstand)
I will offer instructions to enter the pose from Malasana. I feel this to be the most easily accessible option for the majority of practitioners. However, it does require you to be able to hold Kakasana, so I recommend working on your Crow Pose to help your practice of Crane Pose.
- Start in Malasana with your hands in Anjali Mudra. If you can bring your feet flat to the ground, do. You may need to separate your feet a bit wider to make this possible. If you can bring your feet together and keep them flat, do.
- Place your hands flat on the ground, with your wrists parallel to the front of your mat, and the middle of your wrists as wide as your outer shoulders.
- Lift your hips, lift your heels, and lean forward.
- Place your knees on the back of your upper arms. Keep your arms bent.
- Push into your hands, use your core to lift your hips, and stretch your breast bone forward as you lean forward.
- Squeeze your arms in and push your legs down into your arms. Lean forward.
- Bend your knees so that your feet come off the ground into Kakasana. Bring the inner edges of your feet together.
- Push through your hands, lift through your core, and straighten your arms. If possible, slide your knees up your arms and into your armpits. Look forward. Balance here. This is Bakasana.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths and them exit as you entered the pose (but in reverse obvs) OR float back to Chaturanga Dandasana and “take a vinyasa”.
Often teachers place the emphasis on getting your knees up into your underarms in this pose. This is a great variation to work towards, however it is very challenging. I often practice Bakasana with my knees high up my arms, but not wedged into my armpits.
When you are ready for entering the pose with straight arms and your knees to your arms pits, try entering Bakasana from Uttanasana. Better Day Yoga has really clear and simple instructions for how to enter the pose this way.
The next challenge after becoming comfortable with Bakasana (because in yoga there is always more) is to jump back out of Bakasana into Chaturanga Dandasana. And then you can practice floating into it from Down Dog or Handstand!
Modifications & Variations
If your knees don’t come all the way up to your armpits
It is ok to have your knees lower down your arms. Some people find it easier to have them right up in the armpits. I find it takes more core strength to get them that high (not that this is a bad thing), and I find it takes more arm strength than pushing your arms straight from Kakasana.
If your wrists hurt or arms feel stressed
Don’t raise your butt as high. This can put excessive strain on your arms or wrists. If you lower your hips, you will also have to stretch your chest forward more as counter-balance.
You can also use a yoga wedge under your wrists. Set it up with the thick edge towards you and the narrow edge away from you. Place your hands down so that the heels of your hands are on the wedge. This decreases the amount of wrist extension you need to do, which can decrease wrist pain.
If you cannot put weight on your hands
You can practise the shape of the pose on your back first. To practice a supine (on your back) Bakasana, start in Happy Baby Pose.
If you are new to practicing Bakasana
There are lots of different props you can use when you’re new to practicing Bakasana. These are some of my favourite options.
- Blanket/Bolster: Place a folded yoga blanket or a yoga bolster on the ground below where your face or forehead might land if you fall. This helps build confidence, and is also useful to soften your falls!
- Blocks: Set up with yoga blocks under your feet. This helps you lift your hips over your wrists more, making it easier to find your point of balance.
- Lift only one leg: Practice lifting only one foot off the ground. Do this a few times on one side, then do the same on the other side. This will help you gain confidence, build arm strength and improve your ability to balance.
- Use a chair: This can take a bit of practice to do! Set a yoga chair up at the wall so that the back legs touch the wall. This will help ensure it doesn’t tip over. Squat on the chair with your back to the wall. Reach your arms down to the ground. If the ground is too far away you can use yoga blocks under your hands. Lean forward and bring your knees to the back of your arms, or into your armpits. Keep your feet on the chair seat. Hold Crane Pose here with your feet on the chair.
If you have a neck injury
Do not look forward. Instead keep your gaze down towards the ground, or just slightly in front of you.
Yoga Poses Related to Crane Pose
- Vajrasana / Thunderbolt Pose
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana / Low Lunge Pose
- Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
- Phalakasana / Plank Pose
- Sukha Balasana / Happy Baby
- Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Uttanasana / Forward Fold Pose
- Balasana / Child’s Pose
- Tadasana / Mountain Pose
- Sukha Balasana / Happy Baby Pose
- Matsyasana / Fish Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Adho Mukha Vrksasana / Handstand
- Pasasana / Noose Pose
- Parivrtta Utkatasana / Twisted Chair Pose
- Parsva Kakasana / Side Crow Pose
- Parsva Bakasana / Side Crane Pose
- Utkata Konasana / Goddess Pose
Related Posts & Videos
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
- Foam Yoga Wedge
- Folding Yoga Chair
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- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Crane Pose
This pose is often avoided in public yoga classes in favour of its relative, the bent-armed Kakasana. I suspect that is because Bakasana takes more core strength and a lot more wrist extension than Kakasana. So teachers stick with the “easier” version. Fair enough. But there is more. I want you to discover the possibilities of yoga and Bakasana is part of those possibilities. Then it’s up to you to choose wisely.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Crane Pose. I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply and I hope this post helps you see this fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. The more you understand about each pose the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!