What if I can tell you that if you have been practicing chaturanga (yogic pushup) for a while with ease, then you can and should be able to do bakasana? If you have been stuck in the same place trying to balance - stop and re-access the way you are approaching the pose. Obviously it is not working for you and perhaps there is an element that has been missing. We all have different bodies and therefore, a method that works for me does not mean that it will work easily for you as well. Pause the videos as much as you need or focus on a few words/cues that you may have ignored before - maybe there will be a light bulb moment.
Videos 1 and 2 give the foundation of bakasana using a block (use books or pillows if you don't have a block). Videos 3 and 4 give advanced variations and require you to be comfortable with the pose. If you do not feel comfortable putting weight on the wrists just yet, then instead, I advise you to practice something lighter, such as downward dog and ashtanga namaskara until the wrists and upper body get stronger.
All 4 videos have one thing in common: you will notice that the initial setup and alignment of the pose is absolutely the same. Regardless of how you approach the pose, in order to setup successfully for balance in bakasana, the body needs to lean forward enough so that the elbows align directly above the wrists. If you don't lean forward enough (fear?), the weight distribution is uneven and this will cause you to keep falling back to your feet, leading to frustration and adding more "mystery" to the pose. So, pick up some pillows and a block and let's get to work!
1. Crow pose with a block under the feet
Step your feet together on the lowest or medium-height level of a block (or you can use heavy books). The block brings the ground closer to you. Keep your feet together, heals lifted, knees bent and apart, opening the hips. Lift your hips and lean forward a bit so that you can place both hands flat on the floor directly in front of the block and simultaneously park your knees on the back of your upper arms (as high as you can)**. Set up the hands shoulder-width apart and spread all ten 10 fingers - balls of the feet still on the block. Lean forward a bit more until your elbows stack directly above your wrists (now you will feel a lot of weight on your wrists - that's ok - don't panic). Concentrate on 2 main actions: hugging the outer, upper arms in (that will keep the elbows from slaying out) and pushing upwards by rounding your spine (that will give you some physical lightness). BALLS OF THE FEET STILL ON THE BLOCK. This should look and feel like bakasana, with the exception that there is a block underneath your feet. Now play around lifting one foot up at a time. BREATHE and concentrate on maintaining those 2 actions I've highlighted above. Now try lifting both feet (big toes touching). Nothing should be moving or changing in the alignment except for the feet. Take a picture or video sideways (or practice near a mirror) so that you can observe your alignment.
What to not do: don't let the elbows splay out. There is no steady foundation if the elbows are not hugging in and will definitely cause you to collapse out of the pose. Think chaturanga!
**Note that it is not incorrect to wrap your knees around the outside of the upper arms - it is just a different variation and it requires a different kind of engagement. If that works for you, then practice that variation.
2. Crow pose with a block under the forehead
Place the block (or books) at the highest level in front of you. Set up just like in step 1, except for now the balls of the feet are directly on the floor. Before you lift your feet, try resting your forehead on the block. Then try lifting one foot up at a time or both feet simultaneously. Finally if you feel steady, try pushing the forehead up and away from the block - maybe it happens only for one second. It's ok - place it back onto the block. Pause and repeat. This will teach the body the action of pushing upwards by accessing the core and back muscles, and it allows you to lean forward enough to balance. Remember that if the elbows are behind your wrists, the balance cannot happen.
Final advice: naturally we feel safer to lean back landing on our feet rather than forward and on our face. It is possible that you are mentally stuck in this fear and that's why the balance is not happening. So, time to face the fear: you can replace the block in front of you with lots of fluffy pillows. Set up for the pose and commit to leaning forward enough. If you fall on your face, you will land on soft featherville and nothing will happen. The body now will know and remember that fine line of balance. I promise, that is a step forward worth exploring.
3. Advanced: crow pose toe taps
Time to spice it up! If you now feel comfortable balancing and holding the pose for 5 breaths, you can build more strength and endurance with toe taps. Set up the pose exactly as before with no block. Keep the gaze steady at one point and SOFTEN the face. Nothing will move (upper body & knees stay exactly where they are) except for your shins and feet: one foot at a time, move and point your toes down towards the wrist of the same side and then suck back up to meet the other foot. Switch side. Repeat as many times as you can still breathe, without your eyes looking like they are coming out of their sockets...hehe...this feels like a little bakasana dance party!
4. Advanced: crow pose with straight arms (crane pose)
The next evolution step is straightening the arms. The toe taps above will definitely help to get to this point of strength. Set up the pose as described in the previous step. This stage requires enough strength and courage to lean forward and push upwards even more. That is the only way to make space for the elbows to move forward beyond your wrists and for the arms to begin to straighten. Expect a lot more pressure on the wrists and support that by rounding the spine and pressing up more. Give lots of love and massage to your wrists when you come down.
5. Bonus: Crow pose on crack :))
Seriously you guys, I don't know the official name of this one (or even if it has a name) but I feel like it's an explosive that will test all sorts of things. It really raises the bar on core and upper body strength. There are days when I absolutely cannot even think of approaching it and there are other less frequent days (like today) when it calls my name and answer!
Set up the pose as you would for bakasana. Without changing the alignment, begin to move the right knee away from the right upper arm, hovering it in the air and shifting it towards the middle or all the way towards the left, inner upper arm. Warning: it's HARD!! Either move it back onto the right arm or come out of the pose before you repeat the same actions with the left knee. The elbows will need to stay really disciplined for this one as it is easy for them to splay out during the shift. Lots of hugging in actions towards the mid-line of the body will provide for stability for that subtle shift. I've shown the video sideways as well as from the front so that you can see how nothing in the body is moving other than the knee.