I credit my ninja-like reflexes and balance on the mountain bike to all the work I do on the mat. When I’m charging down a mountain on my bike, maneuvering around ruts, drop offs, rocks and turns, there is no room for panicking or second guessing. It’s about staying relaxed, with your drishti sharp (a drishti is a focused gaze, for yoga newcomers), and breath smooth and steady, much like Ujjayi breathing practiced in yoga. These same Jedi-like skills come in handy when you are about to have an important conversation, presentation, test or anytime your heart starts to race and/or you are scared. In these situations, it’s important to keep yourself balanced, your intention clear on where you are going, and your drishti steady on what is important.
The Eagle Pose is a great example of practicing your Jedi concentration and balance in both body and mind. Three tips for this pose: One — keep your gaze, your drishti, steady. Two — engage your core, better known as your Mula bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. Three — since you are only on one foot in this pose, be aware of all your toes and feel your foot grounded.
The Eagle Pose is beneficial for various reasons:
- Improves balance. Balance is a combination of body awareness, proprioception (awareness of your body in space) and strength in the muscles around your joints. Balance takes practice, or rather, if you don’t work on balance, you will eventually lose it.
- Opens the upper back. By wrapping your arms in a snake like dance, space between the shoulder blades are at their widest and your spine stays long. Take a deep breath, and your upper back gets a dose of fresh blood.
- Opens your outer hips.The outer hips get tight from long periods of sitting. The muscles in the outer hips stabilize you when you walk, run, go up and down stairs, and when you are otherwise active. Keeping your hips open helps prevent lower back pain, and helps you move and feel better.
- Mental Focus. Keeping your gaze, or drishti, fixed while holding the pose is a key to maintaining balancing. Drishti is part of the yoga practice and helps develop concentration.
Read more on the benefits and history of Eagle Pose by clicking on this link
How to do Eagle Pose
- Stand on a firm surface, with bare feet, and knees slightly bent. Widen your feet and open your toes and balance on your right leg. Wrap the left leg over the right and then wrap your toes around your right calf. Squeeze your inner thighs together and pull your hips back slightly like you are going to sit in a chair.
- With your legs intertwined, wrap your left arm under your right so the elbows are meeting up and then wrap your forearms around each other so your palms are touching. Squeeze your arms together.
- Sink into your hips and continue to engage your legs by sealing up your legs like they are one. Try to keep your forearms perpendicular to the floor and your chest lifted as you gently raise your elbows creating more space in your upper back.
- Gaze at one thing in front of you and hold that gaze for five breaths.
- Ahhhhhhh 🙂 Switch sides…
The balance in Eagle Pose is very challenging. Here are a few tricks to get you in this pose — place the toe of your top leg on the floor instead of trying to wrap it around your calf. You can also have a wall behind you to keep you upright.
Take it to the next level
Here’s a brief Eagle flow video, https://youtu.be/gXOQpgaAcR4 if you want to add some chest opening to it. The flow moves from Eagle Pose, to Balancing Pose, to Warrior I, to Humble Warrior. Complement it with a Vinyasa flow before moving to the other side.
If you have any knee or shoulder concerns, you will need to make some modifications.
Knee issues – keep your feet together and come into a ski-style squat.
Shoulder concerns – shoulder injuries vary, so use your best judgment and talk to your doctor. A simple modification is to hold the opposite shoulders with your hands so your arms are crossed in front of your chest.