Bird of Paradise Pose (Svarga Dvidasana)

Yoga student in Bird of Paradise (Svarga Dvidasana)
Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Standing, balancing

Benefits: Strengthens the legs and core, improves balance, opens the hips and hamstrings.

Bird of paradise is one of those yoga poses that you look at and think you'll never be able to do. But while there is a lot going on in this pose (what with the bind and the standing on one leg and the hamstring stretch), it starts to make a lot more sense when you break it down step by step.

What once looked impossible becomes a series of achievable maneuvers, a pathway from there to here. 

There is one important caveat, though: you really have to be able to do a bound extended side angle pose before you can tackle bird of paradise. If you can manage the side angle bind with a strap, an open chest, and a smile, feel free to go ahead and try to take on the transition to standing in svarga dvidasana incorporating your strap. But if you're still working on the bind, don't be in a rush to move on. This pose will still be here when you're ready for it. 

Instructions:

1. Begin in bound extended side angle pose.

2. Turn your head so that your gaze comes to your front foot. Step your back foot forward so that your feet are parallel at the front of your mat. Keep the bind while you do this. It's ok if it takes you a few steps to get the back foot forward.

3. Now you're in a forward bend with your arms wrapped around one leg.

Keep both knees slightly bent.

4. Transfer your weight into your free leg (the unbound one). Stand firmly on that foot.

5. Lift your other foot off the ground. Slowly bring yourself up to standing, keeping the bind and therefore lifting the bound leg up with you.

6. When you feel steady in a standing position, begin to straighten the bound leg any amount.

7. Bring your gaze over your opposite shoulder, away from your outstretched leg.

8. To come out, rebend the bound leg and slowly lower that foot to the floor. Keep the bind as you step your free leg to the back of the mat, reversing the process you used to come into the pose. You'll end up back in bound side angle.

9. Release the bind and repeat on the other side.

Beginners' Tip:

Stop whenever you find yourself needing to release the bind. You can use a strap instead of binding with your hands if you want to continue. Be patient.

Advanced Tips:

1. You can probably tell that this pose takes a lot of core strength. If you've got the bind but the balance is very challenging for you, add some yoga-inspired crunches to your routine. 

2, Straightening your lifted leg is the final flourish but is wholly dependent on your hip and hamstring flexibility. This will improve over time so don't force anything.

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