The world of hand balancing encompasses much more than just the traditional handstand. Moves like the side crow and crooks pose are excellent additions to your Progressive Calisthenics routine. These hand balancing skills cultivate synergy in the body between the upper and lower extremities and help foster improved body awareness. Although they may seem like just a party trick, they are actually a great way to build strength throughout your entire body, especially in areas like our hands, wrists and fingers, which are often overlooked in strength training. They can also be a great way to work on mobility.
Beyond the physical benefits, adding hand balancing to your regimen can be a wonderful way to hone your powers of concentration. We live in a culture where people drown out the sounds of their own breathing during training with iPods and other distractions. Learning the crooks pose requires you to be completely present and focused. This practice of mindfulness and attention can really extend into every aspect of our lives and allow us to learn to live fully in every moment.
The side crow and crooks pose are eye-catching exercises that will challenge your mental fortitude, physical strength and flexibility. These moves are a beautiful expression of what it means to be mobile, strong, and healthy! Before you attempt either of one, however, you should have a solid grasp on the basic crow pose. If you need to work on getting into your crow, check out my tutorial here.
Once you have gotten comfortable in the crow pose, we can continue using the system of progressive calisthenics to systematically break down these more advanced variations and help you along the journey.
Let’s Get Twisted
Since both the side crow and crooks pose involve intense trunk rotation, we will start off with a stretch to prep the lateral sides of your body. Sit on the ground with your left leg extended and cross your right leg over. Begin to twist your entire torso to the right side, placing your right hand on the ground behind you to help extend your spine upwards. Place your left elbow outside your right knee to actively push your body deeper into the twist. You should feel this stretch around your lower back, sides and midsection. Repeat on both sides.
The Side Crow
For many people, the side crow will be a helpful lead-up step before attempting crooks pose. Start in a squat position, then twist to one side and place your arms on the outside of one leg with your hands on the ground. Similar to crow pose, your elbows should bend back toward your legs, except this time making contact with only one leg and at two points: near your knee and the other by your hip. Lift your hips up and shift all your weight onto your hands, with your knees stacked together.
If you do not have the mobility to do the above variation, you will start by placing your hands further apart and only use one elbow as a contact point. Try to line up your elbow mid-thigh, before lifting your hips and shifting your weight onto your hand. Make sure to practice the balance on both sides!
Bow & Arrow Stretch
After you’ve conquered the side crow, you are ready for the crooks pose. Once again, we will start off with a preparatory stretch. Begin in a seated position with both legs extended. With your right hand reach for the toes of your right foot and pull your leg back, bending your knee. Wrap your leg around your shoulder and resist the urge to round your spine forward by propping yourself up with your left hand. Breathe easy and hold the position for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
Floating Bow & Arrow
This move is similar to an L-Sit in that it requires monster wrist, triceps and core strength to perform. Begin by getting into your bow and arrow stretch, but place both hands on the ground at your sides. Tense your abs and lock out your elbows to lift your butt off the ground. Actively point your toes and lean slightly forward in order to stay afloat.
Now it’s time to put it all together! From the floating bow and arrow, cross your ankles, bend your elbows and lean forward. Extend your legs to the side where you threaded your leg through and squeeze your knees together to create tension throughout the entire body.
Often our own minds create a blockage as a way to shield us from the unknown. Practicing hand balancing gives you the opportunity to move past some of these self-imposed limitations. As Bruce Lee once said: “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Thanks for joining me on this journey into hand-balancing. Til next time, peace, love and ninja kicks!
Grace Kavadlo, PCC, HKC is a personal trainer and group exercise instructor located in New York City. She is a columnist for Bodybuilding.com and can be seen in several Dragon Door books, including Coach Wade’s Explosive Calisthenics. For more information about Grace, check out her website, www.DieselGrace.com