Want to take on a totally weird and challenging hand balance? Well look no further than Eka Pada Bakasana II (EPB2)--One-Legged Crow II! This hand balance is what happens when Eka Pada Koundinyasana II--Flying Splits/Hurdlers Pose (Or Tittibhasana--Firefly but I like to pretend that's not a thing because it feels terrible in my body...) and Bakasana--Crow get mashed together.
I'm not going to lie. This is a tricky, asymmetrical posture that doesn't look awesome in my body, but sometimes the trickiest, least photogenic postures are worth exploring. That exploration requires a lot of patience and some preparation. Here's some steps that have helped me over the years with EPB2:
Stretch Your Legs
EPB2 involves one leg that is stretched forward. To prepare work with postures like Parsvottanasana--Pyramid and variations on Uttanasana--Standing Forward Bend to get your hamstrings open. However, the extended leg is slightly angled outward which requires more than the hamstrings to be mobile. Some inner thigh stretching is really helpful. That's where postures like Supta Padangusthasana B--Reclined Hand to Foot Pose and Made Up Inner Thigh Stretch (you like that one?) come into play.
Round Your Spine
Just like regular Crow, the upper spine has to be rounded in EPB2. Any postures that resemble Cat Pose should be thrown into the mix for your preparation. Play with variations on Malasana--Garland Pose and drills like the dreaded Sphinx Roll-Ups to feel the slight rounding of the upper spine when you push your forearms into your mat. Before you get into the hand balance you'll want to explore a deep engagement of your abdominals muscles and the spread of your shoulder blades on your back.
Tuck Your Shoulder, Squeeze Your Shoulder
You only do your yoga practice to get your foot behind your head, right? Well the shoulder tuck is your first step toward enlightenment! The extended leg in One-Legged Crow II has to get up and over your shoulder before it extends so warming up your body with bound variations of Utthita Parsvakonasana--Side Angle or Trikonasana--Triangle can train your body to get that big dip of the shoulder down. Lizard Pose or Runner's Lunge is also a nice posture to explore the shoulder tuck or even bind. Once you're in the bind play with pressing your shoulder into the same side leg. Garland Pose is another good posture to get this same squeezing sensation. The press of the shoulder and leg into each other will be an essential action once you get into EPB2.
Try a Different Perspective
My regular students know how much I love to break down hand balances from a reclined position. Before you start to struggle with gravity (and potentially mess up the money maker), why not work on the mechanics of the posture in a lower risk elevation? Play with setting up Crow from a reclined position first. From there try to simply straighten one of your legs toward the back of your mat. This is definitely not a lazy way to approach the posture! Keep your spine rounded, fire up your abdominals, and squeeze your legs to the midline.
Once you're prepped and ready to take off, here's your steps into One-Legged Crow II:
1. Start in Lizard Pose with your right foot forward and your left foot back.
2. Hop your left foot forward until your left knee is behind your left arm like you're about the set up Crow only on the left side. Place your left knee on the back of your left arm (don't pick up your left foot yet).
3. Tuck your right shoulder as deeply as you can under your right knee.
4. Drop your butt and look forward.
5. Straighten your right leg as much as you can.
6. Tip your way forward into your hands and pull your left heel toward your seat. Lastly, once you've lifted up squeeze your legs into your arms, hug your abdominals in, and push through your hands