I have a sweet spot for bird of paradise pose. Maybe because I lived and worked in Raja Ampat before, where we had wild birds of paradise species. They are so gracious and incredibly beautiful. How can we adapt their characteristics on our yoga mat?
This is one of the advanced poses that I often throw into our third-week asana during our teacher training. Birds of paradise pose is an advanced pose with the need of open hips, strong legs, and flexible shoulders. But we can work towards it!
Here are the tips to work on it. Remember that we want to use the pose to access our body, and not forcing our body to access the pose. Be grateful on where ever your body is at the moment and hopefully one day you can stand as gracious as the actual bird in this pose!
Come into Downward Facing Dog. Inhale, step your right foot in between your hands. Ensure that your right knee is stack above the ankle, stay on the ball of the back foot. Slowly lift up your torso and both arms up. Feeling the stretch onto your psoas muscles. Adjust your hips so that they face forwards. Drop down your pelvis to lengthen your spine.
Then, exhale and place your arms behind you back, clasping the palms tightly together. Inhale, lengthen your spine. Then exhale, fold forward to your 11 o’clock. Here, keep the legs as it is, and keep the palms together. Hold for five breaths and slowly lift up and back into high crescent lunge. After one breath, place your hands back down and kick your front leg back into downward facing dog. Do the other side.
Extended Side Angle Pose
Start with Warrior 2 pose. Ensure that your hips are open to your side and your legs are all in safe alignments. Then exhale, flip the front palm up and bend the front elbow and place it on top of your front thigh. Swing the back arm around and up. Stay here for five breaths.
Extended Side Angle Pose with Bind
Still having the alignments of Extended Side Angle pose, slowly lower the upper arm, internally rotate it and place it behind your back, reaching down below your front thigh.
Then, engage your core muscle and release the elbow from the front thigh, drop the hand to the floor inside your front foot without collapsing to the mat. Slowly, internally rotate the arm, bend the elbow and bind the hand to the other hand. Stay here for five breaths.
Forward Fold with bind
Then, if it is accessible to your body – be honest! – keep the bind and step your back foot forward so the feet are shoulder width distance apart. Relax your neck. Shoulder blades are back and down.
Bird of Paradise
When all alignments are in place, slowly shift your weight to your left leg. Then, ensure that this standing leg has all your Mountain pose alignments. Then lift up your torso and the right leg, keeping the hands bind behind it. Your right leg is active and lifting up instead of hanging down onto your shoulders. Keep your shoulders in the joint. Engage your core. Then, if it is accessible for your hamstring muscle, straighten your right knee to come into Bird of Paradise full pose.
Congratulations, beautiful birds!