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Eagle Pose or Garudasana (Garuda is the Eagle mount for Lord Vishnu or the preserving energy of the world, asana is pose) is a balance pose that twists the arms and legs around each other like an eagle perched on a branch.   Eagles are known and revered around the world as mystical symbols of the spirit.  Eagles are known to be strong and independent. They are majestic, bold, and faithful. They are a symbol of strength and determination.
Celia M. Gunn in “Totem Animals” shares this wisdom about eagles:

Air is the main element of Eagle: it represents the realm of the higher mind and inspiration. The totem of an evolved spirit, Eagle helps you be both in and above the world. Adept at seeing the big picture, you are learning to work with all aspects of spiritual life to reach new heights.  Although this may mean you have to go through many trials and challenges, you understand that there is always a higher purpose than might be apparent at the time.

In this pose you will feel the challenge and the success of the pose.  You may lose your balance.  Eagle will give you the fortitude to get back up again and try it again.  Eagle helps us to shift our focus and open up to new horizons and a larger perspective.  Falling out of a pose doesn’t mean failure.  It means you are giving it all you’ve got and you are willing to learn and grow.  Get out of your head and all the minutia that is your life.  See the choices that are present in your life and take actions that will help you rise above the chaos of the world and be the best you possible.  Choose where you want to place your focus and attention.
I find the practice of Eagle Pose to be simplest if you break it down and take the legs and arms separately.  The leg wrap requires a lot of openness in the outer hips and IT bands as well as strength in the legs and core to stay balanced.  The arm wrap has a lot to do with the openness of the upper back and outer shoulders.  A larger chest or arms can get in the way of the arm wrap so be kind to yourself.  Be ok with taking a modification or to use a block for the bottom foot.

The Lower Body:

  1. Begin in a Chair Pose (Utkatasana) with the legs.
  2. Shift the weight to the right foot and lift the left knee as high as possible.
  3. Cross the foot over the thigh and slide it down the leg until the thighs meet each other.
  4. Now, squeeze the thighs together and tuck the left pinky toes to the outside of the right calf or the foot behind the right calf.
  5. If balance is a challenge, place the left toes on a block next to the right leg.
  6. Even out the hips by drawing the left hip back into alignment with the right.

To refine the lower body, squeeze the legs into each other.  Square the hips (with the right foot down, the left hip will need to roll back in order to square the hips). Engage the core to lift the spine and support the lower back.
The outer hips are opening and stretching in this pose.  The inner thighs, quadriceps and the pelvic floor are strengthening.  No matter which variation you choose, you are working on and improving your physical balance.

The Upper Body:

Lets start simple and progress through a few variations of the arms.

  1. Reach the arms wide.  Now wrap yourself up in a big hug with the left arm under the right.   Walk your fingers around even further to open the upper back and shoulders.  This is option #1 – giving yourself some love with a hug.
  2. From the hug, lift the hands and forearms up.  Work toward touching the backs of the hands and arms together.  This is option #2.
  3. Lastly, pull the left thumb (the lower hand) toward your face so the arms wrap one more time and the hands come together.  This is option #3, the full version of Eagle arms.
  4. One more simple variation is to keep the arms facing each other and simply bring the palms and elbows toward each other, eventually touching the inner forearms together.  Option #4 works well for people who have larger chests and arms or anyone who crossing over doesn’t work well for.
  5. With all four variations there is no need to twist the arms or hands.

To refine the upper body, gently squeeze the arms into each other. Feel the shoulders release down and the elbows float up.  Lift the rib cage, while engaging the core.  Keep the head and chin parallel to the ground.
Eagle pose is a great stretch for the upper back and outer shoulders.  It improves focus and determination and helps you to see things from a new perspective.  All the crossing over mid-line also asks the two sides of the brain to work together in harmony, bringing you into balance in the mind, body and spirit.

Putting it all together:

Stretch the arms wide and stand on the right foot with the left foot out to the side.  Breathe in.  With the exhale, move the legs and arms consecutively. Lift the left leg up and over the right.  Bring the arms into their perfect wrap.  Slide the left leg down and around the right as you sink into the standing leg.  Look beyond the arms to a focal point on the floor or wall in front of you.  Continue to breathe, focus and refine the pose for 8-15 breaths.
Let me know if you have any questions or how the pose is working out for you below.
With love and gratitude,
Mindy Arbuckle
Founder of Maitri Yoga Centers