What Crow Pose Taught Me About the Other Side of Fear

The archetype of crow pose (bakasana) embodies fearlessness, persistence, and bold expression. Every time we do this pose, we have an opportunity to practice one or all of these qualities. Think about the courage it takes to lean forward enough for your feet to come off the ground. The fear of face planting often blocks us from leaning in enough. With every attempt at the pose, however, we persistently practice letting go of fear so that we can fly.

I've observed an interesting dynamic between fear and crow pose in my personal practice. Crow is one of my favorite arm balances. I typically feel strong in the pose and thrive on the challenge of floating back to chaturanga (low plank). But every so often, this pose has a sneaky way of revealing the hard truth about a fear I am clinging to in my personal life. It shows up in the form of wobbly arms, dilly dallying to get into the pose, and falling out of it.

I didn't catch on to this relationship between fear and crow until recently during practice. I was flowing through the standing poses, breathing deeply, and feeling present. After the teacher cued crow, I lowered down, set my hands, and raised my knees high up on my arms. At the very moment I began to lean forward to fly, my mind flashed a thought about a hard conversation I needed to have later that day. In that split second, my right knee slid off my arm. By the time I recovered, the teacher moved on to the next pose, and my opportunity to fly was over. 

I was distracted and agitated for the rest of practice, not because I fell out of the pose, but because I found myself rehearsing multiple versions of the conversation I needed to have. I was afraid of disappointing the other person, and I feared how I would react to her response to what I had to say.

After class I tripped on my way out of the studio. And where was my mind in that very moment? I was stuck in the same fear that pulled me out of crow pose. That's when I made the connection about how fear shows up in crow pose for me. Given that the archetype of crow is fearlessness, it makes sense to me that holding onto fear would naturally inhibit my ability to embody this quality or attitude. 

I also came to appreciate what exactly it means to fly in crow. Sure, it's fun and fancy to balance on our arms, but in the act of flying, in that moment our feet are off the ground, we are not bound to fear. Our bodies and minds lift off for flight because the weight of fear isn't holding us down or preventing us from doing something incredible, like balancing on our hands. Crow teaches us that on the other side of fear is a fabulously free body and an uninhibited mind. In those few moments that we touch fearlessness, we come to know and trust that it's possible to reach the other side of fear.