Strength-building, flexibility enhancement and relief from pain in your shoulders and your calves can all be yours by practicing Eagle Pose. In Sanskrit, this pose has the name Garudasana.
(Pronounced as "gah-roo-DAHS-anna")
In Hindu tradition, Garuda represents Lord Vishnu's vehicle: a large eagle who is the King of the birds. His name also describes how his body shines like the fire of the sun. In this pose, you develop the sharp poise, perfect concentration and balance of an eagle.
Stand up straight on your yoga mat in Tadasana with your feet together. Bend your right knee to about a 45-degree angle. Cross your left leg across your right thigh so that the back of your left thigh rests rests just above your right knee.
Now twist your legs to the right a little to help stretch your left foot back, hooking your left toes back around your right calf muscle. As you wrap the left leg around, try to extend your left big toe to hook against the inner side of your right ankle. You should interlock your legs tight and squeeze them together to help you support all your weight on your right foot. Your toes will point down to the floor.
If you don't have the range of movement to wrap your foot around, then press your big toe against the floor instead to help keep your balance.
Straighten your arms and raise them up in front of you, holding them parallel to the floor. Cross your right arm over your left arm and press your right elbow in front of the inside crease of your left elbow. Bend your right arm up to a 90-degree angle. Lift up your left forearm and bend your left elbow. Press the tops of your forearms together directly in front of your face. Reach your left fingers back to grab the inside of your right palm.
Pressing your left fingers and bottom of the right palm together, turn your right hand slightly so that you are facing the thumb of your right hand right in between your eyes. Extend the fingers of your right hand straight up to the ceiling.
Keeping your arms intertwined, raise your elbows to bring them to the same level as your shoulders. Keep your elbows bent at 90-degree angles with fingers pointing straight up.
Hold this posture for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Then you can release your arms and legs to come back to Tadasana. Repeat the pose on the opposite side, crossing your arms and legs in the opposite direction and holding it for the same amount of time.
Students with recent shoulder or knee injuries should refrain from performing this pose. After several months, they can begin to practice it under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher.
If it is hard for you to balance in this pose, then stand with a wall behind you for support. Make sure that your shoulder blades and buttocks remain in contact with the wall to keep your back straight.
After you come into the full Eagle Pose, roll your shoulders apart, back and down. You should feel this stretch in your upper shoulders as you press against the resistance of your twisted arms.
For a greater challenge, assume Eagle Pose and then bend forward while balancing. Place your forearms against the thigh of your top leg. Take a few breaths in this bend. Then inhale to come up. Repeat this variation after crossing your arms and legs the opposite way, holding it for the same amount of time.
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