On my recent trip to the North West Cape near Exmouth, I was in awe of the all the native species we encountered in their natural habitat. Especially the Wedge Tail Eagles, magnificent birds of prey soaring high in the sky, it was a rare honour to see one of these massive birds land long enough to see them up close. I was reminded by just how many of the yoga postures that we practice are named after animals, and it's no wonder - being immersed in nature gave me the opportunity to observe these grand creatures in person, and in doing so, it inspired this month's peak posture: GARUDASANA. Named after a huge mythical bird, the 'king of birds' GARUDA isn't really an Eagle - aside from his beak. Just like the pose, Garuda has a golden body of a man, a white face and a large red span of wings to compliment his Eagle beak.
While we enjoyed the untouched beauty and bounty of mother nature on the Cape, we were
battered by the sheer force of her wind that swept across the rugged plains. And even with the intensity of her wind, these mighty creatures still soared high in the sky. And even with their wide wings, barely a flutter was made, as though they could hang there for an eternity - no matter the conditions. Rather than fighting against the force of wind, these wise creatures harness that power to their own advantage.
Looking at the asana named for Garuda, it's kind of ridiculous - being wound so tight and yet trying to balance at the same time! Although bound and slightly awkward, the posture presents the opportunity to create space in the back of the heart and across the shoulders while broadening the back of the pelvis – which has been known to relieve sciatic pain. The intertwining action of the arms and legs hugging can help us find stability but it’s easy to become wrapped up (scuse the pun!) in the effort it takes to stay balanced – and this is usually when we fall.
The subtle actions of garudasana can be used to our advantage: a steady breath, a focused mind and a firm footing teaches us to trust in the difficulty of the asana; no matter how many times we fall out of it, repeating these actions brings us back to centre, time and time again. And in that presence we observe our own subtleties and asymmetries, channeling these nuances to carry us through whatever obstacles we may face: whether it's gale force winds, a rocky footing or just our own self talk.
The pose itself can be broken down numerous ways, so that each element can be practiced independent of the bigger picture, our vinyasa sequences this month will attest to this breakdown, so that in the lead up to this peak pose, you'll discover verbal queues and actions (some that are a little left of centre) that will guide you into a place of strength and steadiness. By dedicating an entire month's practice to this mythical bird, watch and learn how your big, awkward bird can find the freedom to fly. It's called practiced because we do it over and over again.
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