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Lessons from Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Lessons from Bakasana (Crow Pose)

by Frankie Culpin

If there’s one thing having a baby has taught me, it is to let go of expectations. I expected that at 6 months I’d have a baby that slept a decent length of time in one stretch and that he’d be in his own room and that I’d have more space and freedom – not a lot as I wasn’t totally deluded – but that gradually over time things would move more and more in that direction and piece by piece I’d get back to doing the things that I wanted to do.  I expected the same at 8 months….and also at 10 months…now he’s a year and that still hasn’t happened! It’s just the way this baby journey is unfolding for me and I’m not looking to make any radical changes, but instead to try to keep shifting my perspective and the goal posts of expectation as holding onto these ‘ideas’ only creates a sense of tension and struggle.

The weight of expectation in my yoga practice has previously got me down in so many ways.  Whether it was the feeling of pressure that because I’d been practicing for so many years I should be able to do certain poses or a sense of other people having the expectation that because I’m a teacher I should be able to do poses effortlessly, these or one of the many other stories that fly around my head, were gradually zapping the enjoyment from my practice and were taking my focus away from the reasons behind why I practice yoga at all. For me it has always been about feeling ‘better’ – better in my body, more in balance energetically and more at peace with myself in my head.

Now, every time I get on my mat it feels like a small achievement and finding relief from tense and tired muscles is such a small victory that I’m content with where my practice is at. Getting back into my practice means enjoying my practice and that means keeping it light but laced with curiosity. I’m curious to test muscle memory, to see where I’m strong and where I could do with more strength and also to see how poses and parts of the practice test me mentally. It’s all about tuning in and seeing what’s there. About revisiting what was there before in a new light and bringing in the new, again without expectation.

So where does Bakasana fit into all this?

Looking back, when I first tried the arm balance Bakasana or Crow Pose in classes, I didn’t even know where to start as simply looking at the teacher do the pose made me none the wiser as to how to go about getting into this balance myself. I mean before yoga I’d never done any balancing on my hands and I mean not even cartwheels as a child.  So I stayed in a squat looking around the room feeling like I was the only one who hadn’t yet been told the secret of ‘Crow’.

Practicing for longer and becoming a teacher helped me get to grips with poses and Bakasana was no longer baffling.  However that’s not to say I could do the pose. The breakthrough/shift/’aha’ moment came when I stopped thinking it would ever be possible for me to do the pose. I didn’t stop trying. I just didn’t expect to ever pull it off. And then one day I did it. This probably sounds negative, as it maybe reflects a lack of self-belief, however I think that the whole lesson is linked to the concept of non-attachment. Not ‘non-bothering’, not thinking ‘I’m not good enough’ but more ‘I’m going to keep trying this but whether or not I ever actually do it is besides the point’.

So what is my point?

Goals are great but knowing what’s really important to you in your practice e.g. why do you practice yoga or what keeps bringing you back to your mat? is also super important and often overlooked.

It does feel great to keep chipping away at something and one day find it comes, but that requires patience so give things a go, even if it’s a bit scary, but don’t be hard on yourself! Don’t expect that it’ll come in a certain timescale and pay attention to the details.

Rather than just trying the pose again and again, are there other things you could do to help you progress? Where might you need a little more strength or a little more flexibility in order to help you get there? Getting to grips with these things adds more value to the process and further highlights that the benefits are not just in the pose.

Oh and you could always comes along to my ‘Building Your Bakasana’ workshop if you would like to break this pose down and get some tactics to help you work towards the pose – no pressure though 😉

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