Just Say No to Crow: (Some) Advanced Asanas are for the Birds.

Via Michelle Margaret Fajkus
on Nov 10, 2013
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Flickr: Allmightymo

Some yoga folks preach that we should practice our least favorite poses in order to transcend aversion.

I used to believe them.

So, even though I despised every moment of my first steamy Bikram yoga class, I went back for more torture several times. I thought I needed to get over my negative feelings and embrace all styles of yoga.

Although the guy is a certifiable megalomaniac, to his credit, his 26-pose series does not include the arm balancing posture, crow (bakasana).

When I was younger—you know, fitter, happier, more productive—I didn’t mind crow pose. I would float up into it gleefully, although I never could nail side crow or any of the other fancy eka pada blah blah variations.

Eventually, something in me imperceptibly shifted. I gradually developed outright hatred for the pose; maybe I almost fell on my face one too many times.

Probably I was sick of the way that almost every single teacher in every single class in every single studio throws crow into the mix.

After the ubiquitous but lovable downward dog, it seems to be the next most common pose for instructors to teach.

I’ve lived outside the U.S. for over four years now, but when I lived in Guatemala City, the studio that I frequented had the same symptoms that many North American practitioners complain about: a vast array of fast-paced, sweaty, rock-star, power vinyasa-style yoga, with little to no opportunities for the deeper, more meditative aspects of the practice. And always, always crow pose!

I was stressing out about my aversion to crow, so I sought advice from my friend Lynn, a veteran, 64-year-old Yoga Schmogi. She just shrugged and said, “So don’t do it.”

Silly as it seems now, it was such a relief to hear that advice from my wise, yoga-teaching, Buddhist buddy. It was liberating to give myself permission to omit crow from my personal practice and to defy crow-loving teachers by doing child’s pose (or whatever I felt like) while they led the rest of the obedient students into bakasana.

Crow pose is not for everyone.

It puts a whole lot of pressure and weight on the wrists even when executed correctly—and sets you up for a potential broken nose if done too wildly.

If you’re into it for the mind-stilling, core-strengthening, balancing aspects, great! If you’re into it primarily because you want to strut your stuff, that’s not so great. (The same goes for other fancy feathered poses, such as peacock, eagle and bird of paradise, not to mention scorpion and all the handstand variations so prominent on Instagram and other social networks.)

At best, this mentality will feed our spiritual materialism and raging egos. At worst, it will result in injury.

Okay, so maybe I used to be fitter and more productive, but I am definitely happier now at 33 than I was in my twenties. And I no longer feel inadequate for not being able to do all the advanced poses ever created.

Advanced asanas are not for beginners—and they don’t have to be part of an intermediate or “advanced” yogi’s practice.

As teachers, we must always give modifications for all levels of students in our class. As practitioners, we need to honor our bodies and know when to say no to crow.



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Flickr}


About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a Gemini yogini, writer, teacher and retreat leader who founded Yoga Freedom in 2002 in Austin, Texas. Her home since 2012 is Lake Atitlán, Guatemala where she lives in a tiny eco cabin with her Colombiano partner and their adorable daughter, dog and two gatos. Michelle has been writing this column for elephant journal since 2010 and has written some inspiring books, with more on the way. She leads yoga and mindfulness retreats and serves as the retreat managers for the stunningly beautiful Villa Sumaya on majestic Lago Atitlan. Her lineage is the very esoteric Yoga Schmoga, which incorporates hatha yoga asana, dharma (Buddhist) teachings, pranayama (breath work), yin yoga, mindfulness practices and meditation. Join Michelle on retreat in Guatemala!


8 Responses to “Just Say No to Crow: (Some) Advanced Asanas are for the Birds.”

  1. Mizboognish says:

    It seems that handstand is the new crow. What is the preoccupation?

  2. Trenton says:

    Love the Radiohead reference

  3. Lolol … haha …

    Make those teachers encourage you to find the groin opener in crow, and the hip opener in koundinyasana … Child's pose should not be the only alternative offered, EVER. I stopped going to a few different styles/teachers wherein one-legged dolphin dog was not acceptable (to be remaining in) and you get yanked up into headstand without your permission.

    Now I've a medical condition, contraindicating all inversions. It's a matter of time before even wheel is contraindicated. I'd thought about returning to one of those pushy classes. More than once. Nahhhhhh….

    Again, lol … 😀

  4. Eric Hoss says:

    I'm curious why you refer to younger years as "more productive". Producing what ? If you are happier, aren't you accomplishing much more 🙂 ?

  5. Claire says:

    The more challenging postures, I believe teach us so much more about ourselves. When we struggle and find things difficult, when we fall, we are taught humility and the necessity of leaving our ego at the door. Those struggles strip the layers of ego away and allow us to know ourselves a little better. They challenge not only our bodies but more importantly our minds. I do, however, absolutely agree that they are often thrown into power classes with very little guidance, and seem to be more about nurturing ego than spiritual growth.

  6. Hunter says:

    Crow does not come up a lot where I go. Sometimes I do it at home because it just sort of happens on its own from practicing regularly for about a year. I find the deep stretching poses the ones I need to be most vigilant about for boundaries in group practice, including child pose when my knees are tucked up under.

  7. matthew says:

    Krishnamacharya taught his students one-on-one, for the reason that each person had their strengths and weaknesses based on age, conditioning, injury, intent, etc.

    This can be brought into group classes simply by the instructor beginning the session with the statement, "Make this practice your own." I've heard too many stories similar to 'amphibi 1's' description of being "yanked" into asanas. This is not yoga.

    Yoga is not a form. (And it's certainly not some one else's form!) Yoga is something we feel and experience. Everyone's experience is unique in yoga – something to be honored by both the practitioner and her/his instructor.

  8. I often talk with my students about recognizing when it is time to "retire" poses. I often work with older women who find working too deeply in the hips creates long term aching. Our bodies are always changing, yoga is about cultivating the ability to listen to our bodies, cultivating the wisdom of the body. If our body is saying "no", we listen and we let go.