As promised, this week I’m bringing you the “King of all Asanas” according to B.K.S. Iyengar…
Eagle Pose, or Garudasana (sometimes spelled Garundasana)
Much to many yogi and yogini’s surprise…Garudasana doesn’t actually translate to “Eagle”… Garuda actually translates to something along the lines of “all-consuming fire of the sun’s rays” or “devourer of serpents“. Eagles, being large birds of prey, represent those translations.
In Indian tradition, Garuda, being such a devouring serpent, helps Vishnu in the fight against demons, Asuras and darkness. Garuda is the “king of birds” and therefore, his pose is the “king of all asanas”, or poses.
When you think of an eagle, what kind of images come up?… Piercing and extended vision, monstrous and yet graceful wingspan, discerning taste in prey and stealthy speed, absolute control over the skies?
Eagles have vision that extends to a three mile radius and double vision to focus on objects a mile away, while they can also rotate their heads 270 degrees. They can even see some ultraviolet color spectrum in addition to their full color vision.
Because of these talents, Garuda became the vehicle of Vishnu, used for his unparalleled perception, precision and strength. Garuda is the liberator of one from obstacles.
Garuda‘s pose can help you liberate yourself from obstacles, focus your vision, and increase your grace of power and strength.
The eagle represents freedom and strength in other cultures (obviously the U.S.) as well. Native Americans, Mexicans, Egyptians, Moroccans, Tibetans…etc., all find inspiration in the eagle’s gifts.
The pose channels the part of one self needed in taking control of one’s life, of one’s will power. It increase your ability to focus and channel your positive energy toward building lasting connections to your body and relationships around you.
As I mentioned in a previous post about kayaking, this pose is fantastic for balance. It strengthens your shoulders, calves, ankles, sciatica, thighs, hips and shoulders.
1. Start this pose in Tadasana, or mountain pose.
2. Inhale deeply as you raise your arms over head, like your spreading your eagle-like wingspan up.
3. Exhale as you bring the arms sweeping down, squat, bring right arm under left arm and bind, while you bring your right leg OVER your left thigh and wrap your right foot around your left calf.
4. Take 5 deep Ujjayi breathes as you focus forward. Triceps parallel to the floor at shoulder level as shoulders move back, separate and move down away from the ears. Hands move your forearms out perpendicular to your biceps. Squat deep in the pose, releasing the hips, controlling your balance with you core, straight lower back, tucked tailbone, and strong ankle.
5. Take one last deep breathe, exhale and then inhale as you release, swing the arms up again and repeat on the opposite side. Perform each side twice.
The pose helps reduce asthma, lower back pain and fibromyalgia, and urinary problems.
This pose is also a fantastic pose for men. It is a powerful and confidence boosting pose that doesn’t require a tremendous amount of flexibility at first, but actually helps increase flexibility in the shoulders and hips, where men generally are more tight, especially athletes. It also improves stamina, control and endurance during other athletic activities…and I’ll let your mind wander…
Sometimes, when men (and women) are first starting this pose it is hard to wrap completely up. So just cross your leg over the opposite thigh and hold it, no need to wrap the foot under yet. And for those tight in the shoulder, use a yoga strap…extend arms straight out, parallel , at shoulder height and hold a strap with tension between your two hands.
Beginners with knee problems may want to avoid this pose until they have strengthened their knees through other poses.
Also, if you are having trouble balancing at first, try the pose with your back against the wall.
Also, please practice any new poses for the first time in the presence of a seasoned yoga practitioner!
This pose is usually placed in the midst of a standing series of Warrior poses and sun salutations. Afterward, I like to do a heart opener like Cow face pose, gomukhasana, or flow into Headstand, sirsasana, to really strengthen my back further! I also enjoy leaning forward, extending my wrapped leg back and going into a warrior III from there- that’s a big balance buster!
Also, try this pose while lying on your back, lifting the arms and legs to meet one another (head up), holding for 4 breathes and releasing. Alternate a few times on each side and your abs will be screaming, in a good way!
For more information on Garuda, the mythical figure, click here.
For more information on this pose, check out Yoga Journal or B.K.S. Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga”…available here.