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Bird of Paradise

Learn to find your center of balance and open your hamstrings for this challenging pose.


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Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise) is a standing posture that opens your hips, strengthens your core and back, and lengthens your hamstrings.

This pose can be challenging because it requires both balance and flexibility, so use props as needed.

Focus on pressing into your standing leg and rotating your elevated hip instead of trying to straighten your elevated leg, says yoga teacher Natasha Rizopoulos, a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga. “If you force the extension at the expense of your foundation, you’ve sacrificed stability in the quest for mobility,” she says. “See if you can instead negotiate a balance between the opposite actions of strength and flexibility.”

Bird of Paradise requires strength, flexibility, and physical and mental balance. Focus on all of these characteristics. “Linger in a space that uses both strength and flexibility, and see what happens when you refuse to sacrifice one of the other,” says Rizopoulous.

The pressure of two opposing forces—balance and strength—comes to a head in this posture. Instead of leaning out of that opposition, be liberated by it. Discover how those two characteristics simultaneously exist within one pose.

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Sanskrit

Svarga Dvijasana (svar-gah dwee-JAH-sah-nah)

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Bird of Paradise basics

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How to

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Beginners tips

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Teacher tips

Variations

Photo: Andrew Clark

If you are new to the pose or otherwise working on flexibility in your hips or hamstrings, try the bent-knee variation. Over time, you can slowly try to straighten the knee without forcing it.

 

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

If you can’t quite clasp your hands behind your hip, use a strap to extend your reach.

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

If your challenge is balance, practice the pose near a wall. You can begin with your lifted leg bent, then walk your foot up the wall as your flexibility and balance increase.

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Why we love this pose

“Emulating the beauty of the Bird of Paradise flower, this pose teaches me the resiliency a flower must have in order to bloom,” says Jenny Clise, a YJ contributor. “A lesson I have learned is that not all beautiful things are born out of perfection. The road to this pose is not always paved with elegance or grace— it can get to be a messy journey at times, so we must pack our bags with enough patience and compassion to last. You can make more room for these qualities simply by releasing the heavy cargo that is: expectation. Some days, the proverbial flower will blossom, and others days we must tend to the bud. No matter where you arrive in this pose, you will gain strength, flexibility, and balance both physically and mentally.”

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Preparatory and counter poses

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Anatomy

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About our contributors 

Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.

Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.