Bird of Paradise – not Dying Parrot

I registered to teach Bird of Paradise (Svarga Dvijasana) (“BOP“) for my teaching assessment because I felt it was a reasonably challenging and yet not too difficult pose that most intermediate students could get into with a bit of prepping.  Plus, the pose is beautiful and Instagram-worthy in its full expression!
I thought, with the right prep poses, my fellow students would stand tall and fly high like birds in paradise!
I realised that for most people, the main difficulty they have with BOP is not being able to get into the full expression of the pose after lifting the torso.  They are unable to straighten the knee due to tight hamstrings and/or tight hip flexors.
So I went about structuring my preparatory asanas, which included…:

  • quite a bit of hamstring-stretching/lengthening (Uttanasana, Paschimottanasana);
  • hip-opening (downward dog with scorpion tail, seated forward bends, Baddha Konasana);
  • a gentle warm-up stretch for the back (Gomukasana B) (the back is engaged when lifting the torso up); and
  • core work (Navasana) (the core is also engaged when lifting the torso up).

I would have included Supta Padangusthasana A and B to further awaken the hamstrings and open up the hips.
When it came to getting into BOP, I started students off in Virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2), followed by Baddha Utthita Parsvokasana (bound extended side angle pose) with drishti over the shoulder towards the sky.
With both feet pivoted towards the front of the mat, the back foot will come forward to meet the front, ie. coming into Baddha Uttanasana (bound standing forward bend).
The difficulty comes when students are told to put their weight into the unbound leg/foot and power through that leg/foot:

  • The supporting foot has to maintain 4 main points of contact with the mat (the big toe, little toe, inner and outer heel) to ensure balance.
  • The core and upper back has to be engaged while the torso lifts.
  • The hip and hamstrings have to be open for the lifted leg to be able to extend to the side straight.
  • The chest has to open up, with the supporting foot, hip, chest and crown of the head forming a central axis/midline.
  • Fix the drishti straight ahead for 5-10 breaths.

Tip: Keep the quadriceps on both legs contracted, allowing the standing leg to support you more fully and the hamstrings on the extended leg to open further without strain.
I enjoyed teaching BOP and I learnt so much from sequencing for this particular peak pose.  I hope those in my class enjoyed this too!  Keep practising! 😀
Jian Yuan

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