Asana of the Month: Parsva Bakasana

parsva bakasana

Each month we choose a pose to focus on in each class through strong attention to alignment, variations, and/or modifications as a way to grow and expand our yogic horizons.

Yoga teacher Beryl Bender Birch once wrote of her initial disbelief that only two of the 195 verses in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras even mention the asanas, or physical postures of yoga. And of those two verses, only one gives the slightest indication of how an asana should be practiced: “Sthira sukham asanam”— often translated as “a yoga pose is a steady, comfortable position.” “How could something so big, like the practice of asana, be contained in something so small?,” mused Birch?  She writes:

Then one day while practicing Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose), I experienced one of those “aha!” moments. After months of struggling with the pose, building strength, opening my hips, working with the breath and the bandhas (internal energy locks), I hit the pose exactly. For a couple of seconds, I was balanced perfectly between sthira and sukha, between the energetic opposites of standing firm and letting go. In that moment, it dawned on me that this simple directive held the key not just to asana but to everything we do in life.

Parsva Bakasana is not easy to master. It demands all the concentration we can muster. And as we practice it, we quickly learn that if we tend too much toward sukha, we fall back on our butts or never get off the ground in the first place. Yet if we use too much sthira, the strong energy that can easily become ambition and rigidity, we can catapult forward onto our faces.

We come to see that Parsva Bakasana can be done only with the proper blend of strength and surrender. What perfect training for the rest of life! As the Zen proverb says, “Only when you are extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong.”

Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane or Side Crow Pose):

Parsva = side, flank, or oblique

Baka = crane, or wading bird

Benefits [cited in yogajournal.com]:

  • Strengthens the arms and wrists
  • Tones the belly, spine, and abdominal organs
  • Cultivates patience and balance

Cautions/Contraindications:

  • Wrist, shoulder, or lower back injury

Preparatory Poses:

  • Marichyasana 1 & 3
  • Pasasana (Noose)
  • Bakasana (Crane/Crow)

Song that Most Comes to Mind While Practicing Parsva Bakasana:

At the risk of dating myself, I’m going to have to go with 70s disco classic “Fly, Robin, Fly,” by the German pop group Silver Convention. “Fly, Robin, Fly” first appeared on the group’s 1975 album “Save Me” (an album we all had to hide from Mom as a result of its racy cover art).

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