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Balancing Yoga Poses

Eagle Pose

You need strength, flexibility, and endurance, and unwavering concentration for Eagle Pose.

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Garudasana (Eagle Pose) requires careful focus. You must bend your knees, cross your left thigh over your right, hook the top of your foot behind your right calf, spread the scapula and snug your right elbow into the crook of your left, bring your palms to touch, lift your elbows, and stretch your fingers towards the ceiling. Phew! 

While Garuda is generally translated to “eagle,” it’s actually a mythical bird that those in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions call the “king of the birds.” This magical being carries the god Vishnu through the sky without ever needing to land—because it knows how to ride the wind.

You may feel a sense of constriction or tightening while in this pose. Lean into that discomfort to find ease and stability. Release the tension to experience the freedom of riding the wind for yourself. 

Eagle Pose Basics

Sanskrit: Garudasana (gah-rue-DAHS-anna)

Pose type: Standing Bbalance

Target area: Full Body

Why we love it: “You would think that this would be a wide open, expansive pose; that’s how I think of eagles: soaring, gliding. I can’t think of a pose (other than child’s pose, I guess) that is more closed in. It is a pose that requires the body to pull inward, but also for the mind to become one-pointed as you work to get into the position and then maintain balance.” —Tamara Jeffries, Yoga Journal‘s senior editor

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Pose benefits

Eagle Pose improves balance and focus, and postural and body awareness. It stretches around your shoulders, upper back, and thighs, as it strengthens your core, thighs, legs, and ankles.

Eagle Pose: Step-by-step instructions

  1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). your feet slightly apart, below your sitting bones.
  2. Place your hands on your hips, pressing your pelvis down with your hands to ground yourself and feel a sense of connection with the earth. As you ground down, feel a sense of corresponding lift up through the crown of your head and a lengthening of your spine.
  3. Bend both knees, lift your right foot, and slowly wrap your right thigh over your left. Then curl your right foot behind your left calf, and hook it there. (You should not feel strain in either knee, and your left knee should be facing forward.)
  4. Reach both arms out in front of you and wrap your left arm over your right, crossing the left elbow over the right upper arm. Slide your right hand toward your face, cross your forearms, and press your palms together, raising your elbows to shoulder height.
  5. Stay here for five deep breaths, feeling the stretch in your upper back. Return to Tadasana, and repeat on the other side.

Beginner’s tip

You may find it difficult to hook your raised-leg foot behind your standing-leg calf, and then balance on your standing foot. As a short-term option, cross your legs, but instead of hooking your raised foot and calf, press the big toe of your raised-leg foot against the floor to help maintain your balance.

Teaching Garudasana

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • Make sure your hands are pressing flat against each other, fingers long. If wrapping your arms is uncomfortable, place your hands on opposite shoulders.
  • If you are having a hard time balancing, place a block near the outside of your standing foot and rest your foot there instead of wrapping your legs.

Variation: Eagle Pose with a kickstand

Place your foot on a block at any height for comfort to help with balance. Wrap your arms around your body as if hugging yourself.

Preparatory poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Counter poses

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

Setu Bandha Konasana (Bridge Pose)