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Blog

 

 

Svarga Dvidasana or bird of paradise pose

Olivia Marley

This is one of those postures that can look deceptively simple. And when someone has the type of body that can do it easily, it looks effortless. But for many people (myself included!) this posture is very demanding – it asks for your shoulders to be able to move in certain way, for a decent range of motion in your hips and a LOT of lower body mobility (particularly in the back, front and inside of your thighs). So make sure you include those parts of your body in your warm ups before attempting this posture. Once you’ve done that, try following these steps… 

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Place your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Sit halfway down to the floor into a squat (not all the way down like a yoga squat, more halfway down like you’d do in the gym (first photo above). Wriggle one arm underneath and behind your same side leg. So here I’m doing my right side (and these instructions will be for your right side). Take a couple of goes to get as much of your arm underneath your leg as you can. The more the better! If you can’t get your leg up past your elbow this may be the point that you need to practise for a while before moving on. Reach both arms out to the side and turn the palms of your hands to face behind you, and then maybe up towards the ceiling (second photo above). Turning your arms like this will make your shoulders move in a way that will make the next step easier. 

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Clasp your hands behind your back (first photo above). If you can’t clasp your fingers, hold a strap in your top hand and catch it with your bottom hand. If you can easily clasp your fingers, try holding your left wrist with your right hand (and when you work this on the other side, hold your right wrist with your left hand). Come on to the toes of your right foot and hop your right foot a little towards your left (second photo above).

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Rather than using your upper body to drag your right leg up off the floor, instead use the strength your right leg to lift your upper body upright (first photo above). Notice if your standing leg wants to buckle; if so, straighten it as much as you can. If you can’t straighten your standing leg, just pause at this point of the posture and encourage your bottom leg to become straighter. If you can straighten your bottom leg, straighten your top leg (second photo above). Stand tall and take a few breaths up into your chest. To come out, use the strength of your leg to lower your upper body down to the floor then release your hands. Repeat on the second side. And ask if you have any questions! 

EKA PADA KOUNDINYASANA 1 (AND PARSVA BAKASANA OR SIDE CRANE/ CROW POSE)

Olivia Marley

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These can look like daunting postures the first time you see them. But if you look closely at side crane pose (left photo above) you can start to break it down. Your lower body is in a squat with your legs together; your spine is in a twist; and your upper body is in chaturanga dandasana (click here for our blog post on chaturanga if you're not sure what that looks like!). So before attempting these postures, building in some hip flexion, spinal twists and making sure your chaturanga is solid will be an effective way to warm up your body. That's also key to how I'd sequence a class to help my students access these poses. 

Start in a squat with your legs together and your hands in prayer (left photo below). Then twist to your right and hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee (right photo below).  

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Take a couple of goes to get that elbow as far on the outside of that knee as you can. Holding your right thigh in place with your right hand might help you. Then place your left hand on the floor (left photo below). Place your other hand on the floor shoulder distance away from the first hand (not too close together!).

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Lift your hips and start to turn your chest in the direction your fingers are pointing. Start to take a bit more weight on to your hands (left photo below). Grip with your fingertips, look forward of your hands and maybe take one foot off the floor (right photo below).

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Keep turning your hips in the direction your fingers are pointing and gradually lift your other foot off the floor (left photo below). Keep looking forwards of your fingers and if you feel secure slowly straighten your bottom leg while keeping it in contact with your arm (right photo below).

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If you're still feeling secure straighten your top leg out behind you (bottom photo). Slowly bring your feet back down and try on the other side!

If you can't get through all of these steps first time don't worry. Just pay attention to which step you get stuck on, because that might tell you something about your body. For example, if it's hooking your elbow on the outside of your knee that's difficult, you might need to work on your twists and outer hip mobility. If it's lifting your hips up that's tough it might be a lack of core strength, or if you feel like your arms can't hold you it could be upper body strength. 

As always - we're very happy to take your questions. Just ask! 

 

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MORE SPACIOUS TWISTS

Olivia Marley

I had a question from a student last week about always feeling squashed in twisting postures, which has led on to this week's focus in class. The first thing that's worth saying is that your torso is inevitably going to feel a bit compressed in these types of poses. You can see from the photos above that my abdomen ends up pressed against my thigh. But there are definitely a couple of little adjustments you can make to create a bit more space in your twists! Read on for step by step instructions for the postures above....

Start in a lunge with your right leg forwards and hands in prayer (see picture below left). Hook your right thumb into your right hip crease, just where your thigh joins your torso, with your fingers wrapped around towards your bum. Reach your other arm up towards the ceiling. Push your right thumb down towards the floor and encourage that hip to wrap a little bit in towards the centre line of your mat (see below right). Feel how anchoring that hip down and back allows you to reach your other arm and lengthen your spine upwards a little more.

Keep your thumb pushing down into your hip crease and keep lengthening through your torso as your reach your other arm forwards, then hook your elbow on the outside of your front knee (below left). Keep lengthening your spine as you bring your palms together (below right). Push your front knee out against your elbow and turn your belly and ribs a little further around, aiming your thumbs towards the centre of your chest. This is a brilliant pose in itself - if it feels enough for you, stay here!

If you want to deepen the twist a little further, take your top hand on to your front thigh. See if that helps you slide your other elbow a little more down the outside of your leg (below left). If when you straighten your bottom arm that hand now reaches the floor, put it on the outside of your foot (below right). You don't have to get your palm all the way down - fingertips works too! If your hand doesn't reach the floor bring your hands back into prayer position.

If your bottom hand is on the floor, push your leg out against your arm and turn your chest more towards the ceiling. Then reach your other arm up (see below). After a few breaths here, step back to downward facing dog and repeat on the other side.