Crow Pose: To Risk Falling On Your Nose


A crow is a large garbage-eating bird with a loud cry.  

It is also inverted balancing yoga pose in which you prop your thighs against armpits, squeeze abs tight, hinge forward and pray not to nose-dive!

Over the past 6 months of practicing yoga, my reaction to crow pose has been consistent: “Oh hell no!”  I’ve watched my crowing classmates in amazement – professional contortion artists disguised in Lululemon gear?!

The position requires upper-body strength I don’t possess (in the arms, forearms, elbow joints, hands, wrists, clavicle and scapula). I can’t even do the monkey bars.  It also takes hip flexibility.  I’m a runner = inflexible.

Failure looms large in crow pose.  To take flight – you must lean forward face-first… But not too far or you’ll topple forward. Also, FACE-FIRST.

Two days ago, Mary Catherine (TS Arlington‘s yoga instructor extraordinaire) began demonstrating the steps of crow pose in class.  As usual, I thought, “Oh hell no.

Suddenly, I found my right leg lifted, then my left. For about half a second.

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. 
All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, 
find out what you already know and you’ll see the way to fly.”
-Richard Bach

“Strange,” I thought. I tried again and found myself air-borne a bit longer.

Next time, I counted to 5, thinking “OMG, I’m doing it. OMG, I’m still doing it?”

The distance between my body and the ground felt infinite (even if it was less than a foot).  “I could stay here all day,” I thought.  I felt as peaceful as a lotus flower floating over a pond.

Soon, my balance shifted and I returned back to all-fours.

Class moved on, I smiled widely and tears welled in my eyes. The dichotomy of being a yogi with narcolepsy struck me more than ever.

People often ask if yoga improves my narcolepsy.  In my experience, yoga does not directly affect my symptoms.  Instead yoga gives me a much greater gift.

My body is paralyzed at times (a narcolepsy symptom called cataplexy).  As a result, I’ve burnt myself with hot tea, I’ve dropped things, I’ve stumbled and I’ve fallen.  Medication improves this, but doesn’t  erase it.

As you might imagine, the fear of falling is almost worse than the actual falling.  I’ve respected my hesitations in yoga class, but ever so slowly and without realizing it, I’ve found trust in new places.

Yoga has given me moments of pure grace, strength and balance.

I never imagined that I’d hold this body in my arms.  Now, I can’t imagine a day without taking flight.


Please read Mary Catherine‘s post about getting to know me (her yogi with narcolepsy)!  Yoga and Narcolepsy,” Starr Struck Blog, November 22, 2011. 

Thank you, Tranquil Space, especially Lisa and Mary Catherine – for helping me find my edge and eventually, my crow.


  1. Gail on December 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Congratulations on achieving the pose and sharing the Magic of the moment with reverence and inspirational photos and quotes.

  2. Julie on December 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I'm always inspired by your positive attitude towards every challenge you tackle, and this is no exception! I, for one, have never gotten into the peace yoga brings others; it's just not my kind of thing. But I see what yoga is to you–it's like an escape from the daily struggles we deal with trying to control our bodies–and I am so glad that you've found something amazing that you can still do, even perpetually sleepy 😉

    That pose is pretty unbelievable, so double congrats on that. I can't imagine doing that even with full body strength and control!

    Sending wakeful thoughts your way,
    Julie (a.k.a. the OTHER Julie)

  3. Lelia on December 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

    That is awesome Julie!! I am so happy for you and proud of you!! I have tried yoga. My husband loves P90X and one of the workouts is yoga. I completely understand the "Oh hell no" because that's exactly what I say when it comes time for that position, along with many others.

    You never cease to amaze me, inspire me and flat out motivate me!! Today I will use our new treadmill, thanks to you!! I see how the healthy side of you helps the Narcolepsy part of you and I want that.

    You manage to combine all aspects to develope YOU!! And you are AMAZING!! Never forget that!! You have proven to yourself over and over again that you can accomplish ANYTHING. Not only do you manage to help yourself but in the process you also help others around you.

    What I am saying is, if you ever need a pick me up, you know where to find me. And as always…Thank you for being YOU!!

  4. Melissa on December 21, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Congratulations, Julie! You did it! I especially love the expression on your face in the crow pose…it looks to me like wonder, peace happiness! 🙂

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