Garudasana - Eagle Pose
You need strength, flexibility, and endurance, and unwavering concentration for Eagle Pose.
Garudasana or Eagle Pose is a standing balancing asana in modern yoga as exercise. The name was used in medieval hatha yoga for a different pose.
What does Garudasana mean?
How to Practice Eagle Pose
1. Stand in Tadasana. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right.
Point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot.
2. Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso.
Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor.
The backs of your hands should be facing each other.
3. Press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so that the palms are now facing each other.
The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the little finger of the left.
Now press the palms together (as much as is possible for you), lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling.
4. Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms and stand in Tadasana again.
Repeat for the same length of time with the arms and legs reversed.
If the balance seems to rob you of any access to the pose, the following variations may interest you:
Variations of Garudasana Eagle Pose
Here’s a challenging variation of Garudasana. From the pose as described above, exhale and lean your torso into a forward bend, pressing the forearms against the top-leg thigh. Hold for a few breaths, then come up with an inhalation. Repeat on the second side.
Kneeling Eagle Pose Variation
- This version starts out kneeling on the floor in a tabletop position where hands are under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
- Bring your knees together on your mat.
- Slide your left leg forward, bringing your knee toward your chest until you can bring your left foot forward of your right knee.
- Slide your left foot along the outside of your right calf, bringing your left foot alongside your right calf.
- Lift up your left foot and cross the foot behind your right lower calf.
- Gently lower your elbows to the floor and bring both elbows to the center.
- Cross your left elbow over your right and then lift your right wrist up and cross it over your left wrist, bringing your palms together.
This variation removes the balance issue and can let you concentrate on crossing the arms and the legs, but it is not for everyone since it involves kneeling. Those who feel discomfort from kneeling or those who have wrist issues may find it uncomfortable. The next variation involves just the leg portion of this pose and reduces some of the wrist pressure.
- Start in a downward dog position with your hand's shoulder-distance wide and your feet together. Keep your head between your arms and look toward the tops of your feet.
- Bend both of your knees, letting your heels lift from the floor.
- Transfer the weight to your right leg and cross your left leg in front of your right leg.
- Bring your left foot around the outside of your right calf and cross the foot behind your right lower calf.
This variation allows you the opportunity to be stable and also see what your legs are doing. The downward dog position is easier on the wrists than the tabletop position so it can be held longer with greater comfort. Yet for those who must avoid inverted positions this may not be an option. The following variation will be suitable for almost everyone:
Reclined Eagle Variation
- Recline on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent.
- Cross your left knee over your right knee. (If you prefer you can bring your feet off the floor)
- Bring your left foot to the outside of your right calf and cross the foot behind your lower right calf.
- Reach your arms upward with your palms facing each other.
- Cross your left arm over your right arm and with your left elbow in front of your right elbow, bend your arms so that your fingers are pointing toward your head.
- The backs of your hands are now facing each other and if you move both wrists toward the middle you may be able to slide the edges of the hands past each other and bring your hands palm to palm.
This last version should be suitable to most, but some may still find they are not able to do more than slightly cross the leg or slightly cross the arm.
At no point should you force your body into the pose. There is a lot of difference between body types and this pose is easier for some and harder for others due to differences in leg lengths, muscle mass, arm lengths, and general flexibility.
If you have been gifted with shorter arms and legs, large thighs and calves or a large chest, this pose will be particularly challenging.
This does not mean you will not gain benefit from the pose, but rather your benefit is achieved before you complete the final binding position.
Benefits of Eagle Pose
There are several benefits to Eagle Pose in all the variations:
- Hip stretch, especially the outer hip and external hip rotators.
- Shoulder stretch, especially the shoulder blade muscles (rhomboids) and rotator cuff muscles.
- Enhanced focus and concentration (especially in the standing version).
- Improved balance (from the standing version)
- The ability to soar like an eagle – okay, not that, but wouldn’t that be great!
With the above variations, you may find that Eagle Pose will soon become a pose you can master. Remember to have fun with it and be kind to yourself. No pose is worth an injury so don’t force the positions. Work gently and focus on creating a comfortable stretch. In time you will find yourself soaring with the eagles.
Many find that their initial attempts with this pose are frustrating but it gives them a good way to check on their developing flexibility.
Some will find that with patient practice they can eventually gain the necessary skill and flexibility to create the final bind position.
Take your time. This is not a race. It is also not a contest.