These can look like daunting postures the first time you see them. But if you look closely at side crane pose (left photo above) you can start to break it down. Your lower body is in a squat with your legs together; your spine is in a twist; and your upper body is in chaturanga dandasana (click here for our blog post on chaturanga if you're not sure what that looks like!). So before attempting these postures, building in some hip flexion, spinal twists and making sure your chaturanga is solid will be an effective way to warm up your body. That's also key to how I'd sequence a class to help my students access these poses.
Start in a squat with your legs together and your hands in prayer (left photo below). Then twist to your right and hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee (right photo below).
Take a couple of goes to get that elbow as far on the outside of that knee as you can. Holding your right thigh in place with your right hand might help you. Then place your left hand on the floor (left photo below). Place your other hand on the floor shoulder distance away from the first hand (not too close together!).
Lift your hips and start to turn your chest in the direction your fingers are pointing. Start to take a bit more weight on to your hands (left photo below). Grip with your fingertips, look forward of your hands and maybe take one foot off the floor (right photo below).
Keep turning your hips in the direction your fingers are pointing and gradually lift your other foot off the floor (left photo below). Keep looking forwards of your fingers and if you feel secure slowly straighten your bottom leg while keeping it in contact with your arm (right photo below).
If you're still feeling secure straighten your top leg out behind you (bottom photo). Slowly bring your feet back down and try on the other side!
If you can't get through all of these steps first time don't worry. Just pay attention to which step you get stuck on, because that might tell you something about your body. For example, if it's hooking your elbow on the outside of your knee that's difficult, you might need to work on your twists and outer hip mobility. If it's lifting your hips up that's tough it might be a lack of core strength, or if you feel like your arms can't hold you it could be upper body strength.
As always - we're very happy to take your questions. Just ask!