Side Crow is a challenging yoga posture, but it is more accessible than most people think. There are ways of “cheating” in the posture that can make the shape more attainable, such as placing your hip on your elbow. In this tutorial, we won’t be going over that version. The intent here is not to help you attain a shape but rather for you to gain both a greater awareness of how your body works and ways in which you can strengthen it. As a result of increased strength and body awareness, postural attainment is inevitable, but the process is far more fulfilling and long-lasting.


Side Crow is a yoga pose that requires a twist of the spine, and like all other arm balances, upper body strength and technique are a must. The most important muscle group to strengthen is the flexors of your wrists. These are the muscles that stop you from falling, and since fear of falling often holds people back, you will want to make sure these muscles are ready for the job. The easiest way to strengthen the flexors of the wrists is to start gripping your fingers into the ground. Of the muscles in this muscle group, 2 are in charge of finger flexion as well. Finger flexion is like making a fist or grabbing something. Grip the ground in postures like All 4s, Down Dog, Plank Pose, and Chaturanga, and with repetition, you will get stronger and stronger.


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The second important muscle group to focus on when working toward Side Crow are the shoulder muscles, namely the serratus anterior, rotator cuff, anterior deltoids, and pectoralis muscles. For the purpose of this article, we don’t need to get into what each of these muscles does; just know that they form the structure for your arm balances. Mostly, what you need to do is try and maintain Plank Pose with a rounded, full upper back, where your shoulder blades are apart from each other. Minimize the elbow bend — most people bend their elbows too much and lose stability in the upper body, making the foundation spongy. A microbend at the elbows is all you need. See the video below to get an idea of how much to bend.


    Now let’s get to the good stuff! All arm balances have what I call “2 foundations.” You have the primary foundation, which is the hands — this is most important. Then the second foundation is where the leg(s) rests upon the arm. With all foundations, we want to dig downward like a tree rooting into the soil. The fingers gripping the earth is a downward dig. For Side Crow, our second foundation is where the thigh connects to the arm. If you press the thigh down into the arm, your hips magically lift. It’s not magic actually; that’s just the mechanics and science. In this case, the muscles that do the pressing down are called the abductors (gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, gluteus maximus, and tensor fasciae latae). To get these stronger, follow along with the video below.

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    The last point of discussion is what connects the upper body and lower body: the obliques. Because this posture is a twist, the major core muscles that we need to activate are the external obliques. These muscles will help us to twist, and in the case of Side Crow, we can actually use them to untwist. This is confusing, but once you are in the shape of Side Crow, you are working to untwist along with the abductors, which will keep your buttocks up high and make the posture feel light instead of heavy. In the video, I go over some oblique warm-ups. When you are in Side Crow, it is quite hard to think about untwisting, which is why I show you a technique hack. By abducting the legs away from each other in Side Crow, you will automatically untwist the spine, and your hips will have to lift upward. The abductors of the hips and the obliques work together in this action, and you won’t have to waste brainpower trying to make it happen.

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