How to Do Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman on yoga mat in side crow pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Side Crane Pose

Targets: Arm strength, balance

Level: Intermediate

Side Crow looks pretty intimidating, but some people actually find it to be easier than Crow Pose. There is something about it that's a little more stable since both legs are together in a tight package and the arm position creates a natural support for the legs. Once you get the hang of this one, a lot more arm balances become available to you. You may find this pose in sequences focuses on arm balancing, the upper and middle back, core, and building the upper arms.

Benefits

This pose stretches the wrists, builds shoulder, arm, and core strength, and improves balance. Traditionally, it is said to activate the navel chakra, which boosts self confidence, power, and control. Certainly, being able to do this arm balance will give you a sense of achievement.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin in a squatting position facing the front of your mat. Be on the balls of your feet with your knees together and your palms flat on the floor about a foot in front of you. Your hands should be about shoulder's distance apart from each other.

  1. Keeping the palms in place, pivot on the balls of your feet to turn your knees to face the left side of your mat.
  2. Start to lean forward, keeping your head lifted. Your head is heavy, so if you let it drop it has a tendency to tip your over.
  3. Your arms begin to bend toward a 90-degree angle, making your upper arms into a little shelf (this is the arm position from Chaturanga Dandasana). Place your hips on your right arm shelf and your knees on your left arm shelf.
  4. Keep leaning forward until your upper arms are just about parallel to the floor and your feet want to come off the mat. Lift both feet so you come to balance just on your hands.
  5. Lean back and straighten your arms to put your feet back down.
  6. Turn your knees to the right side of your mat and try that side. Often one side is easier than the other.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors to get the most from this pose and avoid injuries.

Dropping Your Head

Do not let your head drop. This will cause you to tip forward and lose balance. Keep your gaze up.

Elbow Position

Your elbows must be shoulder-width apart and drawn in. Do not let your elbows splay out to either side. Keep them in line with your shoulders and wrists. Otherwise, you will be placing too much weight on the outside of the wrists, which can lead to injury.

Modifications and Variations

You can do this pose in different ways as you practice it, helping you attain the position and deepening it.

Need a Modification?

Try lifting one foot up at a time to get a feel for how far forward you need to bring yourself.

Put a blanket or a block in front of you so you won't be afraid of hitting your head if you fall.

Up for a Challenge?

In the advanced version of the pose, you balance with both legs on just one arm. Here's how:

  1. Return to step 4, above.
  2. While squatting with your knees facing left, you need to twist a little deeper to bring your left arm to your mid-thigh (halfway between knee and hip). Your right hand comes out a bit wider to the right, past where your right hip is. 
  3. When you lean forward, both legs come onto your left arm.

You can try the following variations in either arm configuration:

  1. Straighten both legs, keeping the feet in line with the hips. The soles of your flexed feet will face left as if you were standing on the wall at the left side of the room.
  2. Straighten both legs then move the left (upper) leg toward the back of your mat, keeping the left foot off the floor. This is Eka Pada Koundinyasana I.
  3. Jump back to Chaturanga from any version of Side Crow.

Safety and Precautions

This is a pose to avoid if you have any lower back, wrist, or shoulder injury or condition including carpal tunnel syndrome. It is not recommended if you are pregnant. Be sure to work within your limits of ability and build up the strength and flexibility needed for this pose.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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