I have been practicing and teaching this version of Swan Pose for over a decade, near two decades if I think back. And when I brought up Swan as a possible pose of the month, my staff questioned me – a lot. The reason was because when they looked it up online they found something completely different. If you do a web search for Swan Pose or Hamasana you will find a challenging arm balance where the body floats above the ground, resting on the back of the arms with the fingers turned backward. Whew! If that was the pose I was referring to I would have thought myself crazy!
Instead, what we will be playing with in March is a wonderful back bend, chest opener and thigh stretch. We begin on all fours. There are two poses you can easily use to move into this that may be familiar for some, Spinal Balance and Sun Bird. Either way, we will bend the back knee and reach back with the opposite arm (side note: super difficult to do this pose if you use the same arm and leg). If you can reach the foot and hold with the hand, press the foot upward towards the sky and gaze softly forward. If the foot is illusive and you can’t reach it, not to worry. Keep reaching the and and foot towards each other with a little lift towards the sky. Alternatively, just reach the foot upward – basically a cow pose with a leg lift.
Wherever you end up, breathe smoothly and consciously, holding for 3-5 breaths. With as much grace as a swan, extend the arms and legs and gently release the pose. If you are taking care of your knees or just enjoy a little softness, place a blanket under the knees for support. This is a little bit of a balance pose, so have fun with the sensations that come along with the practice. For balance sake, be sure to practice on both sides.
The Sanskrit word for swan, hamsa, and represents not just the majestic bird, but also inner purity, grace in action and viveka or discerning intellect. Hamsa is also the sound of the breath. Most often we hear it as So Ham. With each inhale the natural sound of the breath is like a whispered “so” and the exhale is like a whispered “ham.” When we practice listening to the breath the feel of So Ham can naturally shift to Hamsa. Either way the mantra resonates as “I am That” and helps us to connect inward to our Divine Selves.