There are times in life when it seems easy to allow your heart to collapse. Perhaps you feel tired, overwhelmed, agitated or out of alignment with Self. But these difficult times are when the heart is meant to shine. Choosing love over fear will always result in the highest good for everyone. This is a lesson that garudasana, or eagle pose, can teach us.
Standing poses, like garudasana, virbhadrasana I or trikonasana, are great for calming anxiety or a scattered mind. And garudasana, in particular, can ease your mind by balancing the flow of prana in and around your heart. With your arms wrapped around each other, you have a choice. Choosing fear is to follow the desire to give into the weight on your shoulders by collapsing into your chest. But by gently spreading your chest while you maintain a gentle backbend and broad upper back, you’ll find the courage to expand connecting your mind and heart.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Garudasana, eagle pose, from the ground up
Take time to immerse yourself in garudasana to experience the power of the pose. Hold it for 15 to 20 breaths and resist the desire to push beyond your limitations. There are many modifications to meet any level. We’ve included several options below.
1. Start in tadasana, mountain pose. Bring your hands together in anjali mudra, prayer position.
2. Bend your knees and move your buttocks back as if you were to sit down in a chair. With an extended spine, bring your pelvis one-quarter of the way forward.
3. Maintain the bend in your knees as you shift your weight into your right leg. Lift your left foot and bring your left thigh on top of the right. Keep both hips pointing evenly forward. Press your thighs together for stability.
4. If your hips face forward comfortably (see modifications below if not), wrap your left foot around the back of the right calf. Keeping your hips facing forward. Continue to press your thighs together to maintain stability.
5. Extend your arms in front of you in a V shape at shoulder height and cross your left elbow underneath the right. Bend both elbows so your forearms are vertical. Keep your chest and upper back broad as you wrap your hands so your palms are touch. With your pelvis slightly forward, extend your chest up into a soft backbend.
Work on raising your elbows to shoulder height, but if your chest collapses, lower your elbow to the point where you can keep the chest broad.
Focus your drishti, or gaze, at an unmoving spot in front of you, or, if you can maintain your balance, gaze at your thumbs. Hold for 15 to 20 breaths, then slowly release the pose by uncrossing your arms first, followed by your legs. Repeat on the other side.
If it is difficult to maintain balance with your foot wrapped around your leg, cross your leg and rest the ball of your foot or tips of your toes on the ground.
If your foot does not comfortably wrap around your standing leg, simply cross your leg and extend your foot in the direction you want it to go.
If you experience pain in your shoulders or back when you wrap your arms, keep them in anjali mudra instead.
If your hips twist to one side, practice garudasana at a wall by touching your buttocks lightly to the wall, not allowing them to move, to maintain an even alignment.
If you have trouble wrapping both your arms and your legs in this pose, treat your arms and legs as separate poses. First work on improving balance with your legs wrapped. Release, and practice wrapping your arms with your feet in tadasana.
Common trouble spots
Twisting the hips to wrap the foot. The most important aspect of alignment in garudasana is keeping both hips facing forward. If you can’t keep your hips even, try the modification at the wall, outlined above.
Upright torso. When your spine is straight up in garudasana, you compress your lower back. Bring your pelvis one-quarter of the way forward to make room in your spine for a slight backbend. This slight backbend allows you to maintain the flow of prana through the body.
Collapsed chest. Practice turning away from fear. Turn toward grounded, heart-centered courage by maintaining broad shoulders and an open chest.