Crow pose may be tricky, but you'll feel so good when you pull it off—plus reap bonus ab- and arm-toning perks.

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Credit: Alex Beauchesne

I'll admit it: Taking on a challenging yoga posture can be quite frightening. I remember the first time I balanced myself on my hands—I thought I might fall forward and break my nose! (I didn't.) Arm balances build not only our strength and stamina but also our courage and confidence. As we learn to take risks on the mat, we begin to take more risks in life, realizing that we can bounce back if we fall.

I love Crow pose, and not just because it sculpts your arms, legs and entire midsection. It's so much fun to take flight. (Avoid it if you have upper-body injuries, though.) Place a pillow in front of your mat if you need an extra security crash pad. Then keep practicing, and soon you'll find yourself soaring—and feeling amazing when you land.

Watch the video above to see me demonstrate how to master the Crow pose, or follow the four steps below.

Step 1

Start with feet wider than hip-width apart, knees bent and lower torso between legs. Bring hands to prayer at chest and use elbows to press open thighs. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths.

Step 2

Place hands on the floor and lift hips high enough to get knees into armpits. Feel the weight transfer to hands and squeeze inner thighs around upper arms to engage pelvic floor and lower abs. Take 1 or 2 breaths in this position.

Photo: Alex Beauchesne

Step 3

Now tip forward and lift onto the balls of your feet. Imagine that your lower half is weightless and tap into your core strength. Pull shoulder blades down away from ears and engage triceps.

Photo: Alex Beauchesne

Step 4

You're ready for liftoff—go even farther forward so you can float your feet one at a time off the mat. As you bring legs up, keep squeezing inner thighs and drawing in belly. Look at a spot on the floor ahead of you for balance and focus. Try to stay up for 3 to 5 breaths. Lower down when you need to, and if you fall, reset and try again.

Photo: Alex Beauchesne

Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.