One of the most fun and inspiring things we've worked on during teacher training is creative use of props. As beloved teacher, formidable yogini, and local prop sorceress Sarah Cook taught us, blocks are good for a lot more than just helping us reach the ground in extended triangle or propping up tight hips in baddha konasana. Therefore I'm introducing a new series, Block Party, in which I challenge myself to share three ways to use a block in one yoga pose. To make it more fun and useful, I'll be including ways to use the block to help beginners nail the pose and ways for intermediate and advanced yogis to improve alignment or make it more challenging!
Bakasana - also known as "crane" or "crow" - is the first arm balance pose I learned, and it's still a challenge. Every day is different for me and bakasana. Sometimes I pop right up and can hang out for seemingly forever. Other times I struggle to lift my toes off the ground. Fortunately, blocks can be super helpful on both sorts of days.
Nailing the Pose
My dear teacher Marvin was the first to show me this little trick. If you're having trouble getting the height required to lift up and forward, try sticking a yoga block under your heels or under your toes. This gives you a little height advantage so the movement isn't as extreme.
Here I'm using a pretty low block but play with different heights to see how they work for you! Practice squeezing your legs into the outsides of your arms while bending at the elbows and playing with balance. Remember to lift your belly button to your spine - this will help you float up
From here you can get the feel of pressing the legs into the arms. Next, try moving some of your weight forward as you come up to your toes.
We all have our bad habits in certain poses. Mine in bakasana is the tendency to set my hands wider than shoulder width apart and slack off when squeezing my arms together. I can usually stay up thanks to core strength and balance, but this isn't ideal alignment.
So for my bakasana block party, I used my block on the wide width between my arms in two different spots to train myself to squeeze my arms to the midline. First, I put the block between my forearms, close to my elbows.
If you find you tend to use a wider-than-shoulder-width stance, stick one of these bad boys (preferably a foam one!) flat on the floor and pick it up between your forearms like in the photo. Squeezing the block with the inner arms will keep them at the right distance. If the block is too narrow or too broad for your shoulders at this height, experiment with block sizes and orientations.
Then engage your core, shift your weight forward, and try to pick up one foot at a time. It was harder than I thought!
For even more of a challenge, place the block between your upper arms like so:
Squeezing the block between your inner biceps will keep it in place and remind you to keep your arms tucked under your body. Remember what it felt like to have the block between your forearms and keep your hands in that same alignment.
This was by far the toughest variation for me. I really feel like my work is cut out for me! And, if all else fails, there's always the beagle balance.
How do you guys like to use props in bakasana?
P.S. There are tons of great, free and cheap Baltimore yoga events coming up now that the weather is getting warmer. Keep an eye on the events page - I'm updating it regularly. Head to my contact page to sign up for updates and keep in touch!