Where do you look in Bakasana?
After spending my day teaching “the importance of looking down in arm balances and inversions,” I happened to go on Instagram and see a teacher say exactly the opposite. “If you look down, you go down” seems to be the popular opinion in yoga. To be fair, I have heard this same cue my whole career and used to teach it myself. But if you know better, you do better.
In my opinion, during an arm balance like Bakasana, the gaze should be the same as in Cat pose—which is down, not forward. Looking forward forces the body into Cow pose.
I explain the gaze in Bakasana to my community by likening it to the concept of “crawl before you walk.” We all know babies first learn how to crawl—which helps develop necessary upper body strength and coordination. The next natural progression is learning how to walk. Slowly standing up, grabbing onto things, testing balance and falling back down. Eventually we get the hang of it. From there, you learn how to run, and so forth.
No one questions this natural progression. No on says: “Hey, stop that baby from walking, it’s only allowed to crawl! It must not evolve past this stage.”
So why don’t we allow this natural progression in Yoga? Why don’t we understand that something which once helped us will stunt our growth and progress if we’re unwilling to evolve through a natural order of progression?
Looking forward in Bakasana is useful when learning the pose because you naturally tend to be more comfortable when you can see in front of you. In this version, your chances of falling forward are slim because the gaze doesn’t allow you to really move past a certain point.
To me, practicing this version makes me feel like I just ate a big greasy meal. The pose feels heavy in my body, with too much pressure being placed upon my shoulders.
Take a look at the picture below of me demonstrating Bakasana with the gaze down just as in Cat.
This single action alone has allowed me to push the floor away, once again, just like in Cat Pose. I can now straighten my arms and round the upper back—thereby making my butt the highest point. From there, I can easily transition into a handstand if I wish.
I hope this helps you understand how looking forward to learn Bakasana is fine at the very beginning—but also that you’re not meant to remain at this beginner’s stage forever. Just as the baby keeps learning and advances from crawling to walking, you too must keep growing. While looking forward initially helped you build confidence, it eventually hinders your continued progress.
Life is meant to be a natural progression of many sorts. Allow yourself the gift of growing! And remember that yes, you must crawl before you walk—but eventually you should walk if you are capable. The transition needs to be made from caterpillar to butterfly.
Are you ready?