Eagle Pose - or Garudasana - is a very challenging balance pose that can look and feel quite intimidating when introduced. The problem is, if you only see the full version of Eagle in all of it's glory, you may never even attempt it, and that would mean you are missing out on the many benefits of this glorious pose. So, to avoid the overwhelm and intimidation, we are going to only focus on the upper body portion of this pose today. I am going to provide some tips, tricks, and modifications to make sure you get all the good stuff out of this stretch without having to think about balancing on one foot! Eagle Pose works to open and stretch the upper back and shoulders. I personally love it for shoulder tension that threatens to turn into a headache as it really works to release tightness from the Trapezius muscles. However, it can also be very tricky to move into if you have tight shoulders and back muscles - kind of a "catch 22" right?! Keep reading for some tips on how to move into Eagle Pose Arms, and how you can modify it to fit for you - wherever you are at in your practice! Make sure to check out the video at the end of the post for helpful visual cues.
Pose Difficulty: Beginner - Intermediate
Step One: Warm up your muscles! Now, I don't always include this in my pose tutorials, however, it is important to do before all physical activity. With this pose in particular, we are going to include the warm-up as a sort of "prep" to get into the pose. If Eagle Pose is one that you have practiced many times before and are relatively familiar with, you may be able to skip this step. (Although, having said that, some shoulder stretching is never a bad idea :)) You can do the following sitting on the floor or in a chair, or standing.
Warm up Stretches:
5 - 10 Breaths in Cat/Cow would be a great start for this pose - see video tutorial here!
Then we can move into some simple shoulder movements - See Video below!
Step Two: Take your arms out to the side at shoulder height, reaching through the fingers. Make sure your shoulders are still relaxing away from your ears with the arms stretched out. With an exhale, bring your Right arms under the Left, bend the elbows and bring the hands to the shoulders - like you're giving yourself a big hug.
- With the hands on the shoulders, give yourself a little press down to ensure your shoulders are down and away from the ears. This may already start to stretch into those Trapezius muscles.
- Imagine and feel your shoulder blades moving away from one another in your back body.
This is a great place to stay and breathe for 10 breaths, especially if you are not able to actually move into Step 3.
Step 3: Keeping your elbows together, lift the hands off the shoulders so the backs of the hands face one another. To wrap the forearms, bring the Right hand in toward you and the Left hand away from you. Move your Left hand toward the Left and then bring it in to meet the Right palm (see video - it's a bit difficult to describe).
- Keep releasing the shoulders away from the ears and feeling the back body broaden.
- You can "play" a bit here, lifting and lowering the arms to find the best stretch for your body.
- Stay for 10 deep breaths, and then release and unwrap the arms and give the shoulders a little shimmy shake before moving to the next side!
IMPORTANT!!! - If you can't wrap the arms to join the palms don't get discouraged! I know some Yogi's who are very advanced and still are not able to do this every time. It has to do with the length and width of your arms, muscle tightness, wrist flexibility - so many factors! Keep working with Step 2 and you may just get the wrap eventually!
Make sure you come back next week for Part Two - Lower Body!