In the pantheon of animal-to-yoga-pose links, some species got short-thrifted.
You hear of poses named after camels, lions, peacocks and cobras, but you never hear about the aadvark pose, the platypus pose, the bee pose, or the panda pose.
I’d like to correct this today by introducing you to the crab pose. In addition to getting us more in touch with our inner crustacean, it’s an intriguing pose from a balance and joint-opening perspective.
In 4 easy steps:
1. Kneel and place your forehead down on your mat, roughly between, and at the level of, your hands.
Here’s another view, just to show where the forehead is relative to the hands:
2. While keeping your forehead down, extend your right leg up in the air. Lift it high and lift it with intention, so there’s a sense of stretch along the leg and the hip. Also, turn your right foot out, as pictured, so as to roll your hip open. Note that with this hip rotation, your leg will drift toward the center of your body. Stay for 2 slow breaths.
3. Bend your right knee, sending the foot to your left. Stay for another 2 slow breaths.
4. Now, here’s the tricky part: shift some of your body weight to the right and raise your left hand to grab the right ankle, as pictured. Keep lifting your right knee, pressing it out and helping your right hip to open up further while getting a shoulder and arm stretch on the left arm. At this point your balance derives from your forehead, right hand and left knee/shin/foot. Stay for 4 slow breaths and then repeat the entire sequence on the other side.
Benefits: Balancing in a way you seldom think about balancing. A great hip joint opener and back extender. The ability to (literally) ground your thinking. A gentle inversion pose. Correcting a glaring omission from your zoologist’s repertoire of poses.
Avoid if: If you can’t quite grab your ankle in the last step, you can still reach toward the ankle without holding it. If your supporting knee hurts in this position, either add more cushion under it (double- or triple-fold your yoga mat) or, if it still hurts, skip this pose altogether.
Final thoughts: You might look at the last image here and exclaim, “Wait a minute! That doesn’t look like a crab!” And you may be right, but I claim the same laid-back non-specificity that yogis have enjoyed through the centuries in their naming conventions. I mean, have you ever done gomukhasana (cow’s face pose) and wonder, “Cow face? How do you get a cow face out of this? Was some yogi high on forest mushrooms, or do their cows not look like the cows from around here?”