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Master Bird of Paradise Pose With These 8 Prep Yoga Poses

Morgan Casavant
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Bird of Paradise is a challenging balance posture. It requires strength and stability in your legs, a toned core, balance confidence, and length in your hamstrings. And like most things, this takes practice.
 
Like any one-legged balance posture, Bird of Paradise will strengthen the muscles in your legs, tone your core, and promote muscular stability. Psychologically, it develops a sense of confidence, concentration, and mental clarity. This pose also develops flexibility in your hips and hamstrings.
 
You can prep your body for Bird of Paradise with some pretty common yoga poses that actively generate everything your body needs. And that’s exactly what we’ll work on today!
 

Practice These 8 Yoga Poses to Prep for Bird of Paradise

These poses will help you gain strength and flexibility in all the right places – making Bird of Paradise easier when the time comes.
 

1. Low Lunge

Low Lunge preps your body for Bird of Paradise as it gently stretches your front hip flexors and quads. Option to take your gaze up and back for a nice heart opener!
 
low-lunge
 
How to Practice Low Lunge:

  • Find Tabletop Pose: in an all-fours position, stack your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees
  • Bring one foot forward between your hands
  • Lunge forward to stack your front knee over your front ankle
  • Lift your torso, draw your shoulders away from your ears
  • Lift your arms overhead, palms face inward (toward each other)
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
 

2. Half Split

With Half Split you work towards flexibility in your hamstrings. You’ll need this when your leg is flying up in Bird of Paradise!
 
half-split
 
How to Practice Half Split:

  • Find Low Lunge
  • Straighten your front leg as you shift your hips back to stack over your back knee (you may need to shift your front foot forward or back to make this happen)
  • Keep your spine tall and flex your front foot
  • Option: Hinge forward from your hips over your front leg for a more intense stretch
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
 

3. Airplane Pose

Let’s get into some balance. Airplane Pose creates stability in your core and generates flexibility in your spine.
 
airplane-pose
 
How to Practice Airplane Pose:

  • Stand at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose
  • Engage your core to hover one foot off your mat
  • Send your foot straight behind you as you hinge forward – keep your floating foot flexed and every muscle in both legs actively engaged
  • Bring your palms by your hips, face down towards the earth
  • Draw your shoulders away from your ears and your heart forward – think Upward Facing Dog
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 

 

4. Eagle Pose

Eagle Pose offers leg strength and shoulder flexibility, as well as a toned core. You’ll need all of this to practice Bird of Paradise!
 
eagle-pose
 
How to Practice Eagle Pose:

  • Find Mountain Pose and bring your arms out like a capital T
  • Sweep your arms in front of you, cross your right arm under left, and then bend your elbows so your hands come toward your face
  • From here, if you can wrap your forearms so your palms touch one another, do so
  • Draw your shoulders away from your ears and your elbows toward your eyebrows simultaneously until you feel a stretch in your upper back
  • Shift your hips back like you’re going to sit in a chair and cross your right leg over your left, with the option to wrap your right foot behind your left calf
  • For this pose to be most effective, keep your hips low and your heart high
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
 

5. Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose

Standing Hand to Big Toe pose continues to work on your balance confidence, and it visually looks similar to Bird of Paradise. This pose stretches your hamstrings, tones your core, and develops your drishti, or focus.
 
hand-to-big-toe
 
How to Practice Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose:

  • Engage your core to find stability in Mountain Pose
  • Keep your foot flexed as you lift your right knee to your chest
  • Grab your big toe on your floating foot with your “peace fingers,” your index and middle fingers and your thumb.
  • Gently extend your foot straight out from your body, option to keep your knee slightly bent for less intensity
  • Start to externally rotate your right hip to shift your floating foot out to the right
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
 

6. Cow Face Pose

Cow Face Pose is a double whammy – it stretches your shoulders and your hips in necessary preparation for that Bird of Paradise bind.
 
cow-face
 
How to Practice Cow Face Pose:

  • Find a seat and cross your right leg over your left until your knees stack over each other (Not happening today? Try sitting on a yoga block)
  • Sit with a tall spine and lift your right arm up to the sky, palm facing in
  • Bend your right elbow and bring your right palm between your shoulderblades
  • Reach behind you with your left hand and grab your right fingertips (If your body just gave you a big ol’ “NOPE,” try holding a yoga strap in your top hand)
  • Keep your spine tall and your top elbow moving back out of your line of sight
  • If you need more intensity, hinge at your hips to lean forward
  • Hold for 7-10 breaths on each side

 
 

7. Warrior II

Create a foundation of strength for your Bird of Paradise in Warrior II Pose. Not only will you generate strength in your legs, you’ll also feel that sense of unmessablewithness that you get from a powerful pose.
 
warrior
 
How to Practice Warrior II:

  • Find Mountain Pose
  • Take a generous step back with your left foot, and pivot it so your left heel roots firmly on your mat
  • Lunge into your front leg, ensuring that your knee does not jut out in front of your ankle
  • There should be an imaginary straight line from your front heel to the arch of your back foot
  • Bring your arms to a capital T with your right arm over your front leg and your left arm over your back leg
  • Bring your drishti over your front middle finger
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
 

8. Extended Side Angle

We’re finally there! Extended Side Angle pose is your foundation for Bird of Paradise. It stretches through your side body and strengthens your legs. We’ll work through three variations of this pose that’ll set up your Bird of Paradise. If you’re already comfortable with a full bind here, jump ahead to that!
 
side-angle
 
How to Practice Extended Side Angle:

  • Find Warrior II Pose with your right foot forward
  • Bring your right hand to the inside of your right foot
  • Bring your left hand straight up to the sky, then bring your arm forward so your left bicep hovers over your left ear
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
side-angle-half-bind
 
How to Add a Half Bind:

  • Bring your left arm behind you, your fingertips reaching towards the top of your right thigh
  • Keep your chest open by gently twisting your torso toward the sky
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 
side-angle-full-bind
 
How to Add a Full Bind:

  • Reach your right hand under your right thigh to clasp your hands together behind you
  • Keep your chest open by gently twisting your torso toward the sky
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths on each side

 

You’re Ready! Go Practice Bird of Paradise

Here’s your quick disclaimer: working up to Bird of Paradise will take time. If this is your first (or maybe even your 20th) time practicing the poses in this sequence, your body may still need some time before hopping into Bird of Paradise. Honor your body, stop when it asks you to, and remember: every day is a new opportunity!
 
Once you’re all warmed up and you’ve worked on the necessary body elements for Bird of Paradise, it’s time to try the real deal. Check out this Bird of Paradise photo tutorial to make it happen!
 

 
Happy practicing, everybody! Have any questions about your progress or the poses we covered here? Feel free to ask in the comments below.
 

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Morgan Casavant

Morgan is a yoga instructor and graphic designer committed to inspiring compassion, balance and centeredness - on and off the mat. She's also an editor at YogiApproved.

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