An analysis of Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise)

Like many other yoga poses, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise, is a standing pose that require flexibility and more importantly stability. The name comes from the resemblance of the body in this pose to the shape of the tropical bird of paradise flower.

Image by: Phil Feyerabend (Gardeningknowhow) and Yogapedia

See the resemblance? IYKYK.

Other than looking like a flower or simply being #instaworthy pose, there are various benefits in this pose (refer to tummee for more elaborated benefits):

  • Opens hips and lower back, improve flexibility
  • Improve balance of body with awareness
  • Extension of spine for better breathing
  • Stretch all muscles in the human body
  • Improve balance calms the mind and reduces anxiety
  • And many more …

Here, I shall attempt to analyse the skeletal and muscle movement of this pose:


Stablising on the standing leg

Let’s start with the most important part of this pose – The standing leg aka the stem. Without it, the flower cannot bloom.

It is essential to maintain the stability and keep the balance through grounding of the standing leg, distributing the weight evenly across your foot. You can do that by imagining roots growing out from your foot into the ground beneath you, holding on firmly to the ground. To maintain the single leg stand, you should be contracting your leg muscles (Glutes: Gluteus maximus and medius, Quadriceps: Rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius, and muscles of lower leg including Gastrocnemius) while straightening your knee.

Beyond those muscles in the legs, activation of your iliopsoas and core (transverse abdominis) would help with your stability, bringing you back to the center point of balance whenever you’re falling out of it. To practice standing on one leg, you can try easier poses such as the tree pose (Vrksasana).


Getting into the Bird of Paradise

Once you figure out how to engage you standing leg muscles and core to keep your stability, you may now move to the other leg – the lifted leg.

Firstly, flex your leg towards your body (as much as possible) and externally rotate it. As you move into this pose, you will be contracting the psoas muscle (iliopsoas) and external rotators such as the piriformis, quadratus femoris. Maintaining the flexion and external rotation of your lifted leg, scoop your arm (same side) underneath your leg, internally rotate your arms, and roll your shoulders back, retracting your rhomboids and rotating the scapulae downwards. Hold your hands behind your back. Engage your triceps as you use your arm as a support to bring your unsupported leg closer to your body and elongate your spine to stand tall.

You will feel a stretch in your adductors group muscles, hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris) as well as in the glutes of your lifted leg. There will also be lengthening of muscles around the shoulder (deltoids) and chest (pectoralis major).

Finally straighten your lifted leg, feel the hamstrings lengthening, as well as your adductors and glutes lengthening even further. It is okay if you can’t straighten your leg. You’re like a flower and you’ll have your time, so be patient and work on your basics. Do not rush into the pose.

Like all other yoga poses, a lot of muscles are activated in this pose. So please warm up the body properly before attempting it. Oh, and remember to try it on both sides! 😊