bakasana your asana off

Oh yogis – have you ever practiced Bakasana and versions of Bakasana and preps for Bakasana for 2.5 hours straight?

Yea, me neither…until last weekend.  And, you all know how much I love hand balances.  I really, really, really do.  Still, 2.5 hours later…this was me:

Warrior wounds!

Warrior wounds!

You see, last weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the year.  For a few reasons – 1) I get to celebrate the birth of one of the strongest, most loving, supporting and inspiring women I know – my MOM! and 2) I get to practice with one of the most authentic, caring and intelligent teachers I know – Kathryn Budig.  A pretty great mix!

Kathryn visits Chicago annually and I always look forward to her workshop because I know I will be challenged physically and mentally.  I also know that I will leave feeling stronger and more energized than ever.  I am literally ‘jumping up and down excited’ to share some of the techniques I learned this weekend with my classes this week (and beyond).


R to L – Mahi Mavros, Kathryn Budig, me!

I wrote a post awhile back about how “Jason’s Yoga = My Yoga” and I feel the same way about Kathryn.  Her style of teaching and practicing resonates so highly with me.  I’m sure many yoginis say this, but I really feel like we’re on the same wave length.  Over the weekend, she mentioned multiple times how important it is to play and playfulness is a quality I try to convey in each of my classes and every single time I step my feet on the mat for my personal practice.  It’s like we hit a certain age where we think playfulness is a negative quality – synonymous with laziness and being unsophisticated.  In reality, playfulness is what keeps us motivated.  It’s what keeps us exploring and questioning our practice and our lives.  Without at least some level of playfulness in your life I would go as far as to say you simply stop learning.  And how can you be ‘oh so sophisticated’ when you stop expanding in mind, body and spirit?

Something to ponder, my friends.

So, back to Bakasana.  Is this a pose you love?  Or do you dread the moment your teacher says “Bakasana/Crow?”  Whether you love this pose or fight this pose, I’ll share a few tips and tricks from the great Kathryn Budig to deepen your relationship with this hand balance.  Please keep in mind that these techniques must be layered onto the foundational steps needed to access this pose.  If Bakasana is not a part of your regular practice (and having this asana as a part of your practice does not mean that it’s perfect, just means that you fully understand the basics), these techniques may need to be tucked away until you’r confident with the basics. 

  1. KeepMarcel the Shell with Shoes Onsafe.You’re probably wondering, ‘wth?’ right?  I told you Kathryn is an amazing teacher and part of what makes her amazing is her ability explain an anatomical technique in a way that you simply cannot forget it.  So, if you don’t know who Marcel is – take 3 min and find out.  You’ll love him.  Now what does he have to do with Bakasana?!  Well, Kathryn explained it like this (I’m paraphrasing, obvi): “Imagine that Marcel is hiding out in your arm pit.  You need to keep him safe as you practice Bakasana.  So, focus on plugging your arms into the sockets, and at the same time, wrapping your upper-outter arms in towards the midline of your body.”  This explanation forces us to protect our shoulders and engage the serratus anterior.  The serratus is a muscle that wraps around your mid-ribs and connects to the shoulder blades (scapula).  When the serratus is engaged, the shoulder girdle is stable, strong and safe.  If Bakasana is a part of your practice, you know that a key element to lifting up is pressing the hands down firmly which naturally pulls the arms away from the shoulder socket.  Still do this, but, now, be mindful of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and keep him safe too.  By protecting Marcel, you’ll protect yourself so that you’re able to Bakasana your asana off for many years to come.  (Marcel is a great technique to focus on in any hand balance, plank/side plank variation, and, of course, in your inversions too!)
  2. Don’t forget to lace up your girdle.  This is a more familiar association to make.  We’re talking core here.  As Kathryn said, an easy way to engage all of the necessary core muscles for hand balances and inversions is to imagine your rib cage is a girdle and lace it up.  Hug the ribs in towards one another and the hip bones up towards the ribs.  When you’re all tied in like this, the rounding in the upper back that’s needed for Bakasana happens naturally.  Plus, if you spend a full practice focusing on this girdle, you’ll wake up the next day and realize you have muscles you never knew existed!
  3. Panini the legs!  This technique is very clear when you’re talking inversions and the legs are almost completely squeezing shut, but it still works for Bakasana.  Yes, this is a hand balance, but please don’t forget it takes the whole body!  Even the legs!  If the feet and legs are not active, the lower half of the body will feel heavy and flying in Bakasana will feel totally impossible.  So, panini the legs!  In other words, isometrically hug the inner thighs towards one another.  No, they will not actually move.  In fact, you don’t want them to move or you’d be well on your way to a) falling or b) pressing into handstand or back to chaturanga.  Nevertheless, thinking about this action and doing the subtle work will create the lightness and lift you need to soar.

Well, yogis, I’m going to leave you to it.  Go Bakasana your asana off!  Be prepared for the warrior wounds and don’t forget – MARCEL, GIRDLE, PANINI!