By Rikke Brodin
This month’s hero pose is Bird of Paradise. What I love about this pose is how it teaches me to work towards a goal in stages, that rushing straight into a tricky shape will get me nowhere. I need to prep my body, with a lot of love and a lot of nourishing patience and with a lot of breath - to open my chest and shoulders and to open my hamstrings and to open my mind for a new challenge.
This wild life is full of knots and binds, the question is how do we find freedom and expansion within these? How do we not let ourselves be crushed by these, but rather use any given boundary as a leverage to grow from. Bird of Paradise show me two most essential teachings of nature itself - that we need to root in order to rise and grow freely. It’s all about the power of the standing leg. Just like a tree needs to grow long deep roots into the earth In order to reach its branches wildly skyward, so do we, as humans, need to plug down and remember our strength and connection to the ground in order to grow. Once we find that anchoring power, we can expand. In any direction.
A) An overview of Bird of Paradise, Svarga Dvijasana
Bird of Paradise is a fun yet really challenging asana that forms the peak of a yoga practice. A combination of a standing balance, chest opener and deep inner thigh and hamstring stretch, this pose also improves the mobility in our upper spine and shoulders. The pose improves our posture and core stability while helping us to maximise our breath. Practising Bird of Paradise develops our focus, resilience and stamina. This is another wonderful opportunity to explore the balance between effort and ease in your yoga practice.
The benefits of Bird of Paradise:
- Bird of Paradise builds strength in our feet and ankles
- It creates length in our inner thigh muscles and hamstrings and improves hip mobility
- The asana encourages an opening through our chest, shoulders and upper back that improves both our posture and our breathing
- Bird of Paradise improves stamina, focus and concentration
- It helps to develop our balance, core stability and spatial awareness
Contraindications to practicing Bird of Paradise:
- It is suggested that the full expression of Bird of Paradise may not be an appropriate asana to practice if you have high blood pressure or an existing hamstring, inner thigh or hip injury although modifications are always available
Here are some variations and helpful modifications of this pose:
- Two great preparatory poses for Bird of Paradise are Bound Extended Side Angle Pose and Bound Standing Forward Fold
- Build your balance and strength by practising Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose with or without a strap
When you are almost ready for the full expression of Bird of Paradise you can keep the lifted leg bent while you focus on the rest of your alignment
5 ways to carry this into your life:
1. It’s all play
It doesn’t matter what poses happen or don’t happen for you, this life is wild, and it’s a divine and curious play. Pour all your love and joyful efforts into a challenge, get curious about the journey and about breaking through some barriers, and at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is. We play.
2. Get anchored
We must find stability before we can find freedom. We need to feel safe in order to grow. Step barefoot outside. Feel your feet on the earth. Remember you are connected. You are supported by the ground underneath you.
3. Give it a go
Try. Why not. I know, it looks ridiculous. Try anyway.
4. Don’t worry about how something looks like, get curious about how it feels like.
There’s no making a perfect shape - the question is, how do feel inside of that shape? Can you fully come alive inside whatever you are doing? Inside any life situation? Can you breathe deeply? If not, re-negotiate, modify, experiment, do something else.
5. Freedom can be found anywhere.
It doesn’t matter how knotted up a pose or a certain situation feels. There’s always potential for making space. If we stay curious, if we keep exploring, we can open up space between the fibres that make up any fabric. Potentiality is the deepest patterning of our evolution.