Pose of the Month: Eagle Pose
By Gwen Lawrence
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Eagle pose opens all your joints. Eagle pose is a posture that generates great joint stability and balance. In order to successfully practice this pose, you must give your full attention. Eagle pose requires you to focus equal attention on both your upper and lower body. The more you release your muscle tension during your exhales, the better the release.
How to: Eagle Pose
Begin this very twisted looking pose by putting all your weight on your left leg. Bend your knees as though you are about to sit in a chair. Keep your spine extended long. Lift your right leg and place it across your left leg. It should start to look like you are sitting in a chair with your legs crossed.
If it is possible, your right thigh should be above your left knee. In time and with practice you will be able to hook your right ankle behind the left lower calf. If that is not possible right away, place the top of the right foot on the left calf or press it against the inner left calf. Take time to squeeze the inner thighs together. This will bring you into a more solid center.
Keep your hips squared to the front of the mat, and try to bend the left knee even deeper.
Bring your arms out to the side, like you are walking a tight rope and need them for balance. Open and expand your chest. Now cross your left elbow over the right in front and center of your body. Keep wrapping and twisting your arms until the palms come together. This full expression of the pose may take time and practice for your shoulders to open enough to perform it.
Relax your shoulders out of your ears, and keep the shoulders squared to the front of the mat just like your hips. Gently raise your elbows to shoulder height, and slowly press your hands toward the front of the mat until you feel a nice opening between your shoulders and deep in the joint. From the waist down feel your body sink. From the waist up lift and lengthen. Maintain the pose for several deep breaths, and slowly unwind the body and repeat on the other side. Just about every joint of your body is affected in this pose.
Benefits of Eagle Pose
The benefits of Eagle pose are vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
Stronger arms, legs, knees and ankles
Open shoulder joints, creating space between the shoulder blades
Open hips and IT band
Increased circulation to all joints
Improved digestion and elimination
For the lay person or yogi, Eagle pose offers many therapeutic applications. Since it opens the back, it is an important pose for people who suffer from asthma. It helps to open the rib cage and intercostals, therefore improving your breath capacity. Eagle opens the hips, legs, calves and knees. In doing so, Eagle has been known to significantly improve symptoms of sciatica.
When you sit deeply in this pose it releases all gluteal muscles, as well as piriformis. Piriformis is a pear shaped muscle that lies deep in the glutes. There is a hole in this muscle that the sciatic nerve passes through. Releasing piriformis automatically relieves tension on the nerve and brings relief to nagging pain. Many people find low back and gluteal stiffness due to long days sitting at desks and driving. Eagle pose will lengthen your back and release your hips to undo all your days stresses.
For the athlete, all of the benefits mentioned above are sure to improve play. This pose is great for maintaining strength and the integrity of the ankle joint. Many sports rely on a grinding, running and cutting game, such as soccer, football and tennis to name a few. The ankle can take a beating.
Athletes must take time to keep the joint open, clean and strong for power and longevity. As well, gamers need to remember to address the needs of the Achilles tendon to avoid a blowout. This pose recognizes that too.
Your ankle joints need to be strong and agile, but flexibility is also crucial in order to avoid injury. Say a player on the football field makes the play successfully but at the end of the play another athlete lands on their ankle. It may hurt to be landed on, but a properly trained ankle will bounce back immediately or very quickly without long term damage.
Also, any pose that helps keep the hips open will contribute to a healthy knee. Athletes with the most range of motion in their hips can avoid major damage or injury to the knee.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely. People with a history of low back, knee or hip problems, should begin with modifications or lying on the floor
Have fun exploring the pose and learning about your body.