Why I Love Yoga's Bird Asanas

Written by Shari Hochberg
Why I Love Yoga's Bird Asanas

Image by Claire Grieves / Contributor

Eagle. Swan. Pigeon. Crow. I was never a fan of birds growing up. These flying creatures were scary and loud with their frightening, pointy beaks and terrifying claws. And that old Alfred Hitchcock movie certainly did not help matters. But, now I love birds. Well, that is to say the various bird asanas practiced in yoga.

One of the best asanas for the legs and shoulders is eagle, or garudasana. I love the twisting of the arms, the generous stretching of the shoulders, the hooking of the foot behind the calf and the ever so slightly forward bow. In Hindu mythology Garuda is known as the king of birds. He transports the God Vishnu and is said to be eager to help humanity fight against demons. And somehow when your palms are together and your middle finger is pressed into your third eye, you do feel mighty strong and powerful, just like an eagle.

One of the more challenging bird asanas I am currently working on is the peacock, or mayurasana. It is an advanced balancing pose that is amazing for the wrists and arms and aids in digestion. I read that In Hinduism, the peacock is associated with Saraswati, a deity representing benevolence, kindness and patience. I will certainly need quite a bit of that for this pose.

The pigeon. The bird we tend to despise in nature and the one that makes its mark all over our cities is actually an incredible hip opener stretch, truly beneficial for everyone. Pigeon, or eka pada rajakapotasana assists in not only the hips, but also the abdomen, the thighs, knees and shoulders. And before you lower down into the pose, your arms are stretched overhead and you puff up your chest just like a proud pigeon.

And finally, my favorite bird asana, the swan. It is a beautiful and elegant pose, which is a transition following pigeon. Although there are numerous variations of this posture, such as grabbing one foot, or both feet touching back of the head, I tend to hook my back foot into the crook of my elbow, elongating the front and back body. And I do feel rather graceful like a swan, well, at least for the moment.

I still tend to avoid large areas of flocking birds in nature and around the city, but in the studio, I embrace all birds and my bird-loving yogis!

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