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Challenge Pose: Mayurasana

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When I first saw Peacock Pose it was not in the flesh. It was an insanely beautiful picture of Chuck Miller, which to this day will be the most amazing Peacock Pose I’ve ever seen. It’s funny how seeing graceful yogis execute advanced poses effortlessly makes them seem easier. I went to my mat thinking, “He looked so peaceful in that pose–must not be that hard!” What felt like a million times later and rolling off of my mat onto my neighbor until no one wanted to practice with me, I knew that Chuck was even more special than I thought–this pose was freakin’ hard! Peacock is the major road bump pose for Ashtangis who practice the 2nd series. It requires flexible and strong wrists and an entire body engagement similar to Plank. Except it’s Plank balancing on a toothpick. I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t rush this one. It is a gorgeous pose that will unravel its beautiful feathers when the right season rolls around. Until then, enjoy the process!

Step 1: Figure Out Your Rotation

The first thing to contemplate is the rotation of the wrists. Traditional Mayurasana is performed with the fingertips facing the body and the pinkies touching each other. Try this rotation by putting the palms flat on the floor and gently pulling back. If this causes sharp pain (some sensation is normal, pain is not), you’ll move into the second rotation: heels of the hands touching, fingertips spinning wide so they face away from each other. If this still doesn’t work, you’ll practice Peacock with the fingertips pointing forward and the hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.

Step 2:

This set up is slightly awkward, but I find it is the most useful in the long run. Start on your knees with the toes curled under. Feet touch but keep the knees a little more than hip-width apart. Reverse your palms (or choose the rotation that works best for you) and walk the hands in as close to the groins as possible. The key to balancing Mayurasana is getting the elbows BELOW the navel. Bend one elbow at a time, working it as far below your belly button as possible. Again, this will feel awkward, but hang in there! Once you can’t get the elbows in any further, join the pinky edges of the hands and inner elbows together.

Step 3:

Keep the gaze forward and step one foot at a time back into Plank so that you’re resting on the triceps and elbows. The back will round and there is a strong chance you’ll fall over. This is a slow and thoughtful transition, so remember to take your time. Once the feet are in Plank, try to either keep them at hip width or bring them together to touch.

Step 4:

Unlike most arm balances, there is no “picking up” in this pose. The action of Peacock is to roll forward. This is why it’s so important to get the elbows low in the belly. Keep the arms firming into the mid-line. Slowly push on the balls of the feet to roll the chest forward. Extend the heart forward until the toes cannot roll and further forward. Once the feet leave the ground, broaden through the collarbone (imagine smiling through your chest), lift the chin, and extend the gaze. Squeeze the thighs together and spread the toes. Take 5 breaths–or as many as you can before falling over.

Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MBG, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD and is currently writing Rodale’s The Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.