Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.
Today we pay tribute to our avian friends by exploring three of my favourite bird-brained Asanas and their benefits. A few interesting facts about birds…
Remember the phrase “She eats like a bird?” It usually refers to a very light eater, but birds typically consume four to six hundred percent their body weight in food daily. Flying takes a tremendous amount of energy…
Canadian Geese mate for life. If a goose loses its mate, it too often will die within a short period of time from grief.
Crows really do like shiny objects. Much like people, to a crow the flash or glint of light off of a shiny object is nearly irresistible.
Pigeon pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana stretches the thighs, groin, psoas and back while opening the shoulders and chest. Although there are a number of ways to enter this pose, I find that moving from downward-facing dog to pigeon pose seems the most natural:
From downward-facing dog, pull the right leg up into downward-dog split. Bend the right leg and place the right knee on the floor outside the right hand while allowing the left leg to sink to the floor. Using the front of your mat as a guide, gently square your hips. If required, padding placed between the mat and the front of your right leg directly under your butt may be used to assist in squaring the hips. From here, return to downward-facing dog for a minute or so, and then repeat on the left side.
Pigeon pose will open the hips, and stretch critical muscles directly related to the majority of back pain. This pose also relieves sciatic pain, and is known to help with urinary disorders.
There are many variations to Pigeon pose depending on your level of flexibility. As a beginner, it is important to use padding as appropriate in order to assist in squaring the hips. More advanced variations include moving the torso into a forward bend over the bent leg and working on keeping the straight pressed firmly to the floor.
Crow (or Crane) pose
Crow pose is an arm balancing pose that builds strength in the wrists, forearms, and abdomen. Crow pose will also release back tension, open the groin, and stimulate digestion. If you have only minor Yoga experience as I do – be prepared to fall – over and over again! There are many ways you may come into Crow pose, but I find that starting from Tadasana or Mountain pose is easiest:
From Tadasana, raise yourself onto your toes. Keeping on your toes, sink into a squat and place your palms on the mat in front of you. Turn your hands slightly inwards, and then take a moment to insure your fingers are splayed wide and that you actively press down through the finger tips and joints. Allow your elbows to bend out to the sides, forming a shelf on the back of each arm for your knees. Raise your hips as you focus your gaze on a point in front of you – do not look down at the mat. Lower your knees until they rest on the arms, and carefully shift your weight onto your hands and lean forward. Take a breath in, and bring your toes off the ground. Stay in this position for thirty seconds when possible (at first, you will meet ground a few times!).
It is very important that you maintain the elbows directly above the wrists. If you allow your elbows to angle out at all, the pressure on your joints becomes extreme which will eventually lead to injury. Keeping the elbows directly above the wrists provides safety and stability which you will need in mastering this pose.
Crow pose is a great pose, and nothing will feel better than the first day this pose goes smoothly without taking a tumble or two. When you do fall (and you will), laugh at yourself, relax, and try again. Remember to keep your head up, and one day this pose will make you feel like you are flying!
Garudasana pose or Eagle pose will strengthen your legs, improve balance, and is fantastic for stretching the shoulders. This pose is almost always entered into from Utkatasana, or Awkward Chair pose:
From Awkward Chair, shift your weight onto the right leg. Bring the left leg up and place the left thigh over the right thigh and hook the left foot in behind the right calf. Move your arms forward and place the right arm over the left and place the palms together. It is okay to interlace your fingers to start if you are having difficulty holding your palms against each other. Lift the elbows as you allow your shoulders to move down your back. Try to hold this pose for five to ten relaxed breaths, and then repeat on the other leg; this time crossing the arms left over right. Eagle pose will help relieve leg cramps and also relieves stiffness in the neck and shoulders. This pose also helps focus the mind and brings balance and grace to your movements.
So ends our modest tribute to those magical creatures of the air. As the sun rises tomorrow and the air comes alive with a myriad of warbling and birdsong, remember your bird yoga and the benefits these poses provide!