Feathered Peacock Pose
pinca = feather
mayura = peacock
Step by Step
Perform a modified Adho Muhka Svanasana at your yoga wall, with your palms and forearms on the floor. Your fingertips should be right at the base of the wall, and your forearms parallel to each other at shoulder width. This pose isn't quite as scary as Adho Mukha Vrksasana; it has a firmer base of support, and the head isn't as far away from the floor. But it can still be somewhat intimidating. To ready yourself for and secure yourself in this inversion, firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your forearms inward. Finally spread your palms and press your inner wrists firmly against the floor.
Now bend one knee and step the foot in, closer to the wall (let's say the left leg), but keep the other (i.e. right) leg active by extending through the heel. Then take a few practice hops before you try to launch yourself upside down. Sweep your right leg through a wide arc toward the wall and kick your left foot off the floor, immediately pushing through the heel to straighten the leg. Hop up and down like this several times, each time pushing off the floor a little higher. Exhale deeply each time you hop.
Hopping up and down like this may be all you can manage for now. Regularly practice your strength poses, like Adho Mukha Svanasana (or the modified version that's the beginning position here), Plank Pose, and Chaturanga Dandasana. Eventually you'll be able to kick all the way into the pose. At first your heels may crash into the wall, but again with more practice you'll be able to swing your heels up lightly to the wall.
If your armpits and groins are tight, your lower back may be deeply arched. To lengthen it, draw your front ribs into your torso, reach your tailbone toward your heels, and slide your heels higher up the wall. Draw the navel toward the spine. Squeeze the outer legs together and roll the thighs in. In Pincha Mayurasana your head should be off the floor; hang it from a spot between your shoulder blades and gaze out into the center of the room.
Stay in the pose 10 to 15 seconds. Gradually work your way up to 1 minute. When you come down, be sure not to sink onto the shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades lifted and broad, and take one foot down at a time with an exhalation. Lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana for 30 seconds to a minute. We tend to kick up with the same leg all the time: be sure to alternate your kicking leg, one day right, next day left.
- Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and back
- Stretches the shoulders and neck, chest, and belly
- Improves sense of balance
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
Contraindications and Cautions
- Back, shoulder, or neck injury
- Heart condition
- High blood pressure
Many beginners find it difficult to prevent their elbows from sliding away from each other in this pose. Buckle a strap and loop it over your upper arms, just above your elbows. Extend your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder width and adjust the strap so that it hugs your outer arms. Then use the strap in the pose, but think of pushing the arms slightly in, away from the strap, rather than letting them bulge out into the strap.
It may not be possible for you to perform the full pose right away. Instead you can perform its halfway variation, Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (are-dah = half), which will help you build up strength and confidence for the full pose. Sit on the floor with your legs fully extended and your feet against the yoga wall. Make an imaginary mark on the floor beside your hips. Turn around, so your back is to the wall, kneel down, and put your elbows on the mark. Then set yourself up for the pose as described in step 1 above. Step one foot high up onto the wall, then push off the other foot and hoist it up along side its mate. Now walk your feet slowly down the wall, until your legs are parallel to the floor and your torso perpendicular. Press the heels firmly into the wall by lifting the tops of the thighs and tailbone toward the ceiling. Stay for gradually increasing lengths of time, starting with about 15 seconds and working toward 1 to 2 minutes. If you are strong enough to perform this variation, you are strong enough to support yourself in the full pose.
Modifications and Props
Traditionally the palms are placed flat on the floor in this pose. However, it's possible to change the position of your forearms and hands. You'll need a block to brace your hands. You can make the pose slightly easier by pressing your palms flat on the ends of the block, so your wrists are perpendicular to the floor. Be sure to curl your fingers around the back of the block and then touch your fingers to your yoga wall. Press the inner wrists actively toward the floor. Or you can turn your palms up to face the ceiling, with the pinky sides of the hands on the block. This will help you learn about the rotation of the upper arms. Keep the palms lively and the thumbs stretching away from the ends of the block.
Two partners can help you get a better sense of grounding the pose through the inner wrists. Position your partners at the wall just outside your forearms, and facing toward you, as you perform the pose. Have each of them press down on a wrist with one of their feet. They should start with the foot on the outer wrist and then, as they press down, roll the foot toward the inner wrist, where the grounding pressure should be concentrated. Help them to regulate the pressure, telling them whether you want less or more. Make sure that both partners are pressing with the same amount of force.
- Adho Mukha Vrksasana
- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Prasarita Padottanasana (with a block squeezed between the bent elbows)
- Supta Virasana
Deepen The Pose
Advanced students should gradually move away from the wall and learn how to balance without support. Sit on the floor with your legs fully extended and your feet against the yoga wall. Make an imaginary mark on the floor beside your knees, then set yourself up for the pose with your elbows on this mark. Your hands will now be slightly away from the wall. Then kick up, bend your knees, and touch your feet on the wall. If you're in the right spot, your upper arms, torso, and thighs should all be aligned perpendicular to the floor, and your knees at a right angle. Keep one foot on the wall and extend the other leg fully, pushing the heel actively toward the ceiling. After a few breaths, bend that knee and return the foot to the wall, then repeat with the other leg. Finally, with an inhalation, try to straighten both legs and balance.