How to Master the Bird of Paradise Yoga Pose

With the New Year upon us, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn a challenging yoga pose that tests the limits of your athletic abilities. Filled with binds, twists and major body extensions, the Bird of Paradise is a special pose that mimics the hatching of a bird, hence its name. On a deeper level, though, the Bird of Paradise represents renewal and strength. And no better time than 2017 to come back stronger than ever, right?

But like a young chick in an egg, you don’t get to paradise in one shot. Allow Gina Turner, yoga instructor and DJ, to break down the challenging asana for us on the set of Daily Burn 365.

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7 Steps to the Bird of Paradise Yoga Pose

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

As the foundation for the Bird of Paradise, Tadasana encourages you to become aware of your breath and posture. But it can also test your focus and ability to stay present. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and keep your hands at your sides, palms facing forward. Take a few inhales and exhales to draw attention to your breath. Don’t round your spine; stand upright with your shoulders back.

2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

The forward fold is a great metaphor for reflecting and turning inward. As you stretch your hamstrings and inner thighs, this pose will help you wake up your joints and loosen your upper body for the side angle poses and binds. Keeping your legs straight, extend your torso forward and reach for your toes or the floor. If you can’t reach them, hold opposite elbows with your hands and just let your neck and head hang.

3. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

Triangle pose is one of the major progressions of Bird of Paradise because it prepares you for the binds with a deep side stretch and conditions your body for practicing balance. It also helps up warm up the muscles in your thighs, knees and ankles. If it’s difficult to touch your ankles on the side bend, grab your shin or calf instead.

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4. Bound Triangle Pose (Baddha Trikonasana)

This pose comes with a special twist: Binding your arms around your front thigh. Because it can be hard to completely wrap your arms, start slow by reaching your arm over your lower back to help open up the shoulders and improve your range of motion. You might think, “What is the purpose of doing a bind?” In this case, it forces you to stay present when holding a pose.

5. Squat Hold with Pointed Toe

Squatting helps you learn how to rely on your arms to provide balance. In this challenging variation, it’s best to open up your shoulders and chest as much as you can to create stability in your upper body. To hold the squat, engage your glutes and slowly sit your hips back and down. Focus on a spot on the floor to help you concentrate.

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6. Bird of Paradise with a Bent Leg (Svarga Dvidasana I)

During this stage of Bird of Paradise, you’ll want to make sure your supporting foot is deeply rooted to provide stability. Spread out your toes on the floor and engage your ankle muscles to keep you grounded.

7. Bird of Paradise with Full Leg Extension (Svarga Dvidasana II)

In this final stage, your chest and lower body are fully blossomed. Keep your lifted leg straight and behind your shoulder to help open up your chest. Your supporting foot should be facing forward, and your hamstrings on your extended leg are engaged to help you feel a deep stretch. Be sure to breathe as you hold this pose for at least three counts.

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