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A challenging balance that incorporates hip opening, core and back strengthening, and hamstring lengthening
1. Start in Warrior Pose II, with a bent left leg, right foot turned in slightly, and a firm, straight back leg. Inhale and take your arms to shoulder height. Exhale and bring your left arm under the left thigh, and your right arm to the sky, then behind your back. Clasp the left wrist with the right hand. Keeping the left leg bent, twist the torso to the sky as you gently press the hips forward. Your drishti is over your right shoulder as you settle into Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana, or Bound Extended Side Angle Pose.
2. Exhale and look down. Turn both your feet parallel and then carefully start to move them toward one another. Once the legs are close to hip distance, straighten them both and twist your torso to the right, keeping the bind and finding Baddha Uttanasana, or Bound Standing Forward Bend.
3. Pour all of your weight into your right foot and start to lift your torso, bringing the left leg off the floor. Keep the supporting foot’s toes spread; your weight should be evenly distributed between the big toe, little toe, and inner and outer heel, maintaining 4 points of balance. Keep the lifted leg bent in this Svarga Dvijasana variation—Bird of Paradise with a bent leg.
4. Open the chest and extend the lifted leg to the side, being careful not to swing the supporting hip out to the side. You’re aiming to find stability and ease in equal measure. Open your chest proudly, engaging the muscles across your back to hold your heart high. If you start to teeter, revert to a bent left leg and regain stability in the right leg by pressing evenly into all four corners of the standing foot and visualizing a line down the middle of the body that you are hugging into.
5. Fix the drishti straight ahead or over the right shoulder and stay for 5–10 deep breaths, embodying the beauty, stability, and vibrancy of the Bird of Paradise flower.
If the central axis of the body becomes displaced, you may compromise the knee and hip joints. Aim to keep the supporting foot facing forward, toes spread, with the knee over the ankle, and the supporting hip plugged into the midline. Keep the quadriceps on both legs contracted, allowing the standing leg to support you more fully and the hamstrings on the extended leg to open further without strain.
See also Paradise Found