Published in Sweat Equity Magazine, October/November 2016
Svarga Dvidasana (Paradise = Svarga; Dvi = two; Asana = posture):
Bird of Paradise
There’s nothing like a little Bird of Paradise to inspire the most romantic of us to confidently approach our mat, ready to take flight with the grace and ease of a… well, a bird of paradise! It should be noted, though, that while I’m a huge fan of heralding any motive at all that gets us to the mat, you may want to put “grace and ease” on the backburner for now while you practice moving into this pose. The good news is that the risk of injury (at least from wiping out, unlike some arm balancing postures) is minimal. And the bad news? None! In yoga, it’s all good.
Getting into the Pose
An excellent aspect of this posture is that there are many “checkpoints” along the way— postures you can incorporate into a fluid sequence that will prepare your body for the final pose. Warm your body with 3-5 rounds of Sun Salutation C. This will help to prepare your hips and activate your core.
From Dog Pose, step into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) and transition to Utthita Parsva Konasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). Move into the half behind, taking the arm behind your back, looking to grasp the opposite inner thigh. Then strongly roll the front shoulder back. Bird of Paradise requires some flexibility in the deltoids.Once the half-bind is available, grasp your wrist behind your back for Bound Side Angle Pose.
This part feels a bit awkward at first, but after a few tries, you will find that it’s easily finessed. Take it slowly at first to find your balance. From bound Side Angle, shift all of your weight into your front foot, and step the back foot in slightly for greater control. Reestablishing your balance, pivot slightly towards the front of your mat before stepping the back foot all the way forward into Baddha Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Again pause to reestablish your balance.
Now you’re ready to make your way into Svarga Dvidasana. This is where patience is your best friend. Keeping your weight strongly rooted into your front foot, lift up onto the toes of your bound leg. Strong contract your inner things to keep the leg pulled in tight towards the torso, as you begin to make your way to standing.
Once you’ve come standing upright, you’ve mastered your baby bird! The next stage is to expand into the full brilliance of the pose, by straightening your lifted leg. Pause anywhere along the way to heed the messages of your hamstrings. This is a deep stretch for the inner thighs and hamstrings and a challenge to your balance! Take a break as needed.
Exiting the Pose
You want to “disembark” as gracefully as you took flight, and doing so requires focus and control. Simply repeat the very same steps, in the opposite order. Rounding your back, lower to your bound forward bend, pause, and step back into bound side angle, pause to release the arms and flow through your vinyasa.
This postures stimulates the Muladhara (sacral) and Vissudha (throat) chakras. Although not immediately aligned in proximity, the Muladhara and Vissudha chakras have an interesting connection. Bird of Paradise stimulates the Muladhara chakra through the rooted down, balancing foot, that establishes and re-establishes its connection through shifting circumstances. The throat chakra, or vishuddha, includes the neck, mouth and tongue. Be sure to soften the jaw and breathe smoothly in this posture. It represents freedom of expression and creativity and vibrates at the color blue.
Benefits of the Pose
*Opens the hips, groins, and shoulders.
*Relieves tension in the neck
*Trains balance and concentration.
*As an advanced posture, Bird of Paradise teaches trains patience and compassion, while achieving the final pose boosts self-confidence.
If you cannot grasp your wrist in the bound version of Side Angle Pose, try using a strap. Continue holding onto the strap as you work your way towards the final pose. As you gain strength, stability, and flexibility, you can shorten the strap or let it go entirely.
You can also go “prop-free” and simply hold the knee into your chest, activating the muscles and acclimating the body for the more advanced variations.