Garudasana or Eagle Pose is named after the divine mythical creature Garuda. Garuda is the king of birds but the enemy of snakes. When snakes enslaved his mother, he fearlessly agreed to their request to get the nectar of gods for her freedom.
In his quest to get it from a lake on top of a mountain, Garuda faced many challenges. Your students will also face challenges in a yoga class, especially as they do Eagle Pose. In this article, you will learn how to teach the Eagle Pose so you can guide your students to soar high and be as brave as its namesake.
Benefits of Eagle Pose
Garudasana or Eagle Pose is quite a challenging pose. But it’s one asana that offers many benefits to the body. Here are some of its benefits:
Strengthens the Lower Body
Eagle Pose is a standing asana. It strengthens the muscles of your lower body, such as your gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, quadratus lumborum, and calf muscles. It also improves your joints’ range of motion and strength, such as your ankles and hips.
Stretches the Upper Back
Does your upper back feel tight? If so, Garudasana can help you. It stretches your upper back.
Garudasana is a balancing pose. The more you do it, the more it improves your balance.
Parts of the Body That Need to Prepare for Eagle Pose
To teach Eagle Pose and other asanas, you need to break down the poses based on the muscles that need to stabilize, engage, and open. Here are the stretches you can do to open and stabilize the muscles and joints used when practicing Eagle Pose.
Calf Muscles of Legs
If you have tight calf muscles, you will not bind them to do an Eagle Pose. To open and stretch your calves, you can do these movements:
Calf Stretch 1
- Start in Mountain Pose with your hands to your waist. Make sure you are standing tall and your core is slightly engaged.
- Slowly shift your weight to the balls of your foot and lift your heels. Hold this for five seconds. Then, bring your heels down.
- Repeat this for ten rounds.
- For a deeper stretch, use a step. To do this, place your toes and the balls of your foot on the step. Your heels should be on the floor. Then, bring your heels up and down.
Calf Stretch 2
- Start in Mountain Pose. Step your right leg to the back. The right foot should be pointing at a 45-degree angle.
- Keep your weight distributed equally on both of your feet. Then, slowly bend the left knee. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the movement for three to five rounds.
- Repeat the movement on the left leg.
- Beginners can use a chair to support them if this is too much.
Calf Stretch 3
- In Downward Facing Dog, slowly shift your weight to the right leg and cross the left ankle to your right ankle. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Do this for three repetitions.
- Repeat the pose on the other leg.
Internal Rotators of Legs
Garudasana requires the hips to rotate so the legs can cross internally. Here are three movements you can do to warm up and improve the internal rotation of your legs.
- Lie on your right side. Bend your knees. Make sure the knees are stacked on top of each other. The hips should be neutral.
- Rest your head on your right hand to prop it up. Bring the left hand down to stabilize your body.
- Bring your left knee up to open your legs. Make sure the hips and pelvis are stable.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 20 to 30 times.
- Repeat this movement on the other side.
- Start by sitting down on the floor. Bend your knees and keep your feet as wide as your hip.
- Engage your core and keep your back straight. Then, bring the knees toward the right. Make sure your knees and your ankles are at a 90-degree angle. Aim to get the left hip down the floor. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. Then, do this on the left side.
- Repeat for five to ten rounds.
Seated Hip Internal Rotation
- Start seated on a chair with your feet on the ground. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
- Engage your core slightly and slowly extend your right knee, bringing your right leg up.
- Then, turn the right foot to face to the left. Stay here for five to ten seconds. Then, come back to your starting position.
- Repeat five to ten rounds on each leg.
Internal Rotators of Arms
To do Eagle Pose, you need your forearms to bind. This pose requires you to internally rotate your arms. To improve the range of motion of your arms’ internal rotation, try these exercises.
Internal Rotation Exercise 1
- In a seated position, bring your forearms together in front of your chest. Make sure your elbows are parallel to your shoulder.
- Make circles with your arms while keeping your hands and forearms together. Do 20 to 30.
Internal Rotation Exercise 2
- Sit down in your most comfortable position.
- Bring the arms to the back and grab your opposite elbows. Keep the shoulders down.
- Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds.
Internal Rotation Exercise 3
- Lie down on your right side and bring your knees stacked on top of each other.
- Bring your right elbow down parallel to your shoulder. Your right wrist should be parallel to your elbow as well. Then, slowly internally rotate the shoulder by bringing it down and up. Do this for 20 to 30 rounds.
- Repeat on the left side.
Preparatory Poses for Eagle Pose
The practice of Eagle Pose involves twisting the arms and the legs. Practicing some asanas will help improve the range of motion of your hips and shoulders and will make you feel stable and at ease in Garudasana.
Gomukhasana (Cow Face)
Cow Face Pose twists the legs, similar to what you do when in Garudasana. Here’s how to do this pose:
- Sit down on your mat or directly on the floor. Keep your back straight and chest open.
- Then, bring your right hand to the back of your neck and your left hand to your low back. If you can reach your fingers, bind the tips together. If not, keep the hands where they are.
- Bring the right knee on top of the left.
- Hold this pose for five or more cycles of breath.
- Switch to the other side.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Utkatasana stabilizes your gluteal muscles and prepares your whole legs for Eagle Pose. Here’s how to do Chair Pose:
- Start in Mountain Pose. Bring your feet hip-width apart or a little wider.
- Inhale and bring your arms up. Keep your shoulders drawing in.
- Exhale as you hinge your hips and bend your knees. Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as you can get.
- Hold this pose for five or more cycles of breath.
Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Standing Revolved Hand to Toe Pose)
Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangustasana strengthens and stabilizes the legs, which helps you to hold and balance your Garudasana. Here’s how to do this pose:
- Start in your Mountain Pose with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Shift your weight to your right foot and slowly bring your left knee up.
- With your left hand, grab the outside edge of your left foot.
- Slowly extend the left leg.
- Twist your torso to the right, while keeping your hips neutral. Then, extend your right arm and gaze over your right shoulder.
- Stay in this posture for three to five cycles of breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Ashta Chandrasana (Crescent Lunge)
Ashta chandrasana or Crescent Lunge opens the hips, stabilizes the core and the pelvis, and strengthens the legs. Here’s how to do this pose:
- Start in your Mountain pose.
- Shift your weight to your left foot and bring your right knee up.
- Then, step the right foot to the floor and bring the heel up.
- Bend the left knee, making sure the knee is on top of the ankle.
- Inhale and bring your arms up. Stay in this pose for three to five breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Step-by-Step Guide to Do Eagle Pose
- Start in Mountain Pose. Guide the students to engage their Pada Bandha, so they are grounded and stable.
- Inhale and cue Utkatasana or Chair Pose with their arms overhead.
- Once the students are stable in Utkatasana, cue them to shift their weight to their right foot and slowly bring the left knee on top of the right knee. Students have the option to stay in this variation of Garudasana. But also, give them the chance to do the full expression of the posture by bringing the left ankle behind the right calf muscle.
- Once students find balance, cue them to bring the left elbow on top of the right elbow and bring the back of the hands together. For students with a higher range of motion in their shoulders, they can get the palms together.
- Let the students stay in this pose for three to five cycles of breath.
- Come back to Tadasana.
- Repeat on the other side.
Who Should Do and Not Do Eagle Pose
Eagle Pose is a great way to strengthen the legs and increase the range of motion of your hips and shoulders. Everyone should do it. However, people with elbow, knee, and ankle injuries should avoid doing it. Pregnant women should consult their doctor first before doing this pose.
Counterposes for Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Garudasana or Eagle Pose requires you to engage most muscles of the legs and stretch the shoulders. To restore the balance in your body, you need to do poses that will bring your muscles and joints back to the neutral position. You can do this by practicing counterposes. Here are some counterposes you can do after Eagle Pose:
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
Vajrasana or Thunderbolt Pose is an excellent counterpose for Garudasana because it allows the ankles to relax after you relax. Here’s how to do Vajrasana:
- Start by kneeling on the yoga mat.
- Bring your knees and big toes together and gently sit down on your heels. If this is not possible, bring a pillow or a yoga block under your buttocks and sit on it.
- Sit straight and rest your hands on your thighs. Keep your gaze forward and breath deeply through your nose.
- Hold this pose for three to five cycles of breath.
Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)
Utkata Konasana or Goddess Pose opens your hips externally and your shoulders internally. It’s another excellent way to bring your hips and shoulders back to neutral. Here’s how to do this pose:
- Stand with your legs as wide as you can. Let your feet point to the sides, to about a 45-degree angle. Your knees should be on top of your ankles and pointing toward where the ankles are pointing.
- Inhale and bring your arms up. Exhale, engage your core, and slowly bend your knees and your elbows. Your elbows should be parallel to your shoulders, and your palms should be facing forward.
- Stay in this posture for three or more cycles of breath.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose externally rotates the hips, so it’s a great way to counter the Eagle Pose. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit down on the mat and keep your back straight.
- Bring the soles of your feet together, and let the knees fall to the sides.
- Bring your hands down in front of you or in your back.
- Stay in this pose for five or more breaths.
Eagle Pose Variations
Not all students may be able to do the full expression of Eagle Pose due to many different reasons. Offer them variations so they can still enjoy the benefits of this pose. If your student can’t balance in Eagle Pose, let them try doing it in a chair or on their back.
For those who can’t intertwine their forearms, let them bring their forearms in front of their chest with fingers pointing up. Those students who can’t get their ankle behind the calf muscle can let the ankle dangle while keeping their foot pointed.
Some students find ease and stability in their Eagle Pose. If you have students like this, let them stay there and where their limitations end. Guide them to bring their elbows close to their knees. If this is not possible, let them hold the pose longer.
Eagle Pose is a beautiful asana that exudes strength and courage. When you know how to teach Eagle Pose properly to your students, they will be able to embody the bravery and tenacity of Garuda while in this pose.