garuda=king of birds, asana = pose
Eagle pose is a standing balancing yoga posture. It’s one of the 84 original asanas listed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which was written sometime around 1200-1300 AD. Although it’s a traditional pose, it’s not an easy pose. It can be tricky to attain this posture the first few times. It can help to gaze at one unmoving point on the floor or wall for balance. Eagle pose has many benefits — it improves balance, concentration and coordination; it stretches the ankles, calves, glutes, upper back and shoulders; and it builds lower body strength. Eagle Pose also opens the hips and shoulders and all the major joints in the body (i.e., shoulders, elbows, writsts, hips, knees and ankles).
Before moving into Eagle Pose, you’ll want to warm up with some preparation poses, these can include Cat/Cow, Mountain Pose, Chair Pose and Eagle Arms.
To move into Eagle Pose from Chair Pose, release the left arm under the right arm, wrapping elbows, forearms and palms tight together. Lift the left knee and inhale it inline with the hips as you press firmly through the opposite foot. Exhale, release the left floating leg outside the opposite (right) leg, either using the toes as a kickstand, or wrapping the ankle behind the standing leg. If you find this to be a real balance challenge you can rest the ball of the foot of the top leg on a yoga block.
Flex and adduct the standing right leg (imagine the head of the femur bone turning inward). Press the outside of the knee into the top leg to help facilitate internal rotation of the femur. Squeeze the thighs together and then try to draw the femurs apart to stabilize the pose. Dorsiflex the hooked foot by drawing it into the calf. Squeeze the elbows tight together and then try to straighten them and move down below shoulder height as you resist.
Try to square your hips and chest to the front of your mat. Draw your abdominals in and up. Your elbows, knees and hands should all line up in the centre of the body.
Hold the pose for several breaths. To release, inhale and uncross your arms and legs. Left both arms up toward the ceiling and place both feet back on the floor. Repeat on the other side.
- Garudasana Fold – for more of a challenge, while in the full posture bow forward, bringing your bottom elbow to touch your top knee. Hold for a breath or two then come back up. Repeat if desired.
- Parivrtta Garudasana (Twisted Eagle Pose) – with this variation of Eagle Pose you add a twist, allowing the pelvis and torso to move in opposite directions as you cross your arms to the left (assuming left leg is on top) and drop elbows to the outer left knee. Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.
Cautions & Modifications
Be cautious in this posture if you have shoulder, knee, elbow or wrist injuries. For tight shoulders or shoulder pain you can grasp opposite shoulders instead of interlocking the arms. If you are interlocking the arms and your palms can’t touch, simply rest the outside of the hands against each other. If you have wrist or hand injuries you can keep your arms in prayer and do the legs only. If you have low blood pressure, headache or inner ear problems, practice this pose against the wall for the extra balance support. This pose should be avoided by women in late-term pregnancy. For more details on modifications, always feel free to talk to your yoga instructor prior to class.