Half Crow or Eka Pada Bakasana is a very deep forward fold and one of the more difficult hand balance poses of yoga asana. It combines the surrender of a deep bow with the surrender to our fears of balancing on our hands. There are several ways of doing it:
From Sirsasana II or tripod headstand by lowering one knee to one tricep and extending the other leg behind, then raising your head.
From Bakasana or Crow Pose, simply by extending one leg behind.
From Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog, described below.
Simply by watching someone who has perfected the pose – we highly recommend this method.
Physical, Mental and Karmic Benefits
You may notice a decrease in the fear you experience in your life if you use this asana to activate the heart opening energy of Prana Vayu – described below. This pose brings equilibrium to the nervous system, develops a sense of balance and coordination, and although your arms, wrists, chest and back will certainly become stronger, it is in fact Mulabandha or “root lock” which ensures its perfect performance.
Subtle Body Focus – Prana, Channels, Chakras, Bandhas
Your focus should be directed at the tip of the nose – Nasikagra Drshti – as this will activate Mulabandha. Before you attempt the position, point to the tip of your nose and try directing your eyes and your focus there. You should see a double outline of your nose forming an inverted “V” shape. Watch the apex of the inverted “V”, and notice a subtle activation of energy at the location of Muladhara Chakra – approximately 2 inches inside the vaginal canal in women and between the anus and testicles in men, approximately 2 inches inside the body at this point of the perineum. Conscious focus on this point will activate the upward flow of pranic energy which we call Mulabandha, or root lock, which has the effect of creating a lock or seal at the Muladhara Chakra location.
Now sit quietly and become aware of the Prana that circulates in the heart area – its flow continues down both arms. This pranic flow is called Prana Vayu. It is the wind, or prana that is the foundation for its more gross form of the breath that sustains life. It is Prana Vayu that is activated in Eka Pada Bakasana and in all hand balances – creating a circle of energy from your heart down both arms and through your hands to the foundation of the earth.
Draw courage and a deep sense of love from this open armed hugging pose. Think about whom you might want to enclose in this circle of love. Or more importantly, why you would want to leave anyone out.
Outer Body Focus
Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutations
Do 3 – 5 rounds to warm your body, paying particular attention to lunge position – substitute Lizard Pose if you like – and to Plank Pose – do a one-leg version if you are able. Come to a deep Child’s Pose – Balasana – after each round before returning to stand at the front of your mat for the next round.
From Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, raise your left leg behind you – keep all four corners of your right foot, especially the entire heel, firmly rooted. Use the downward force of your right foot and your straight right leg to give lift and buoyancy to your left leg. Now draw your left knee in towards your left tricep as you lift up onto your right toes, and hold this half plank position for three breaths. Repeat twice more, and on your third time, bring your left foot forward and plant it between your two hands, drawing your right leg forward into a kneeling position. Wrap your left arm around your left shin, your right arm behind you, and clasp your left wrist with your right hand. Fold forward, rest your forehead on your mat. This is a deep forward fold and will prepare your body and your winds for the final pose. Repeat on the other side, and do each side twice.
Now you’re ready for Eka Pada Bakasana – the final pose. It’s good to do your version of the final pose at least twice each time you practice it.
From Downward Dog, come into Marichyasana Variation as described above, left leg leading. Then release your arms, plant your hands below your shoulders and pin your left knee to the outer edge of your left shoulder as close to the armpit as possible, pressing hard to form a seal. Raise your hips up into the air as your draw your right foot in towards your hands, keeping your gaze along your nose-tip. Engage your root lock – Mulabandha – and on an inhalation, tip the scales of your balance so that your right foot simply clears the floor, and you can slowly raise it behind you, kneecap facing down, using your gaze and your hands and your circle of pranic energy to counterbalance yourself.
It’s no joke, actually – to discard your body at will by manipulating the elemental structure of it is one of the goals of yoga. It makes for much easier flying!
Breathe normally or retain an inhalation if you are holding the position for a short time only.
Tips from Deep Retreat
In our experience, one of the best ways to learn to do an asana, especially a difficult one that seems beyond our ability, is to simply visualize it in your mind’s eye or better yet, watch someone doing it well. Over and over and over. Without actually trying to do it, just sit and watch as often and for as long as you can, allowing feelings of deep rejoicing to wash over you for their perfect mastery, their ease and grace, effortless.
This is a difficult arm balance that requires strength as well as balance, and a proficiency in activating mulabandha. Work up to it gradually.
If you have congestion in one side or the other of the abdominal or pelvic region that inhibits neural and muscular functions, such as scar tissue from surgeries, constipation or other inflammatory conditions, it makes it much more difficult. You may notice you are able to do it better on one side. You could then practice agnisar dhauti and/or nauli to decongest and/or see a massage therapist who works with deep tissue.
Having said all that, leave your physical body behind and focus on the concept of flying effortlessly!
Gentle Camel Pose - Ustrasana - with hands clasped behind your low back.
Avoid this asana if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, shoulder injury or a spinal disc injury. Always check with your health caregiver and a competent yoga teacher who is trained in the classical texts of yoga, for example the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Master Swatmarama and Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali before attempting new yoga asanas on your own.