Garuda = the mythic king of the feathered race, sworn enemy of the serpent race, half vulture, half human, the vehicle of Vishnu. Garuda is usually rendered into English as “eagle,” though this isn’t its literal meaning. According to Alain Danielou, the word is rooted in gRR, “to speak.” Danielou writes (in The Gods of India, p. 160) that Garuda represents the “hermetic utterances of the Vedas, the magic words on whose wings man can be transported from one world into another with the rapidity of light...” The Sanskrit-English dictionary, however, derives the word from a different interpretation of the root gRR, “to swallow, devour,” because he was “perhaps identified with the all-consuming fire of the sun’s rays.”
1. Stand in Mountain (tadasana). Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot off the floor and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back behind the right calf, then hook the top of the foot behind the lower calf. Balance on the right foot.
2. Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor and each other, and spread your scapulas wide across the your back torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. At this point, the backs of your hands should be facing each other.
3. Press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so the thumb of the right passes in front of the little finger of the left. Now press the palms together (as much as is possible for you), lift your elbows up, open your palms and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling. Try to turn the tips of your thumbs to point right to the tip of your nose.
4. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute, then unwind the legs and arms and stand in Mountain again. Repeat for the same length of time with the arms and legs reversed.
Strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves
Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back
Improves concentration and sense of balance
- Contraindications: Students with knee injuries should avoid this pose, or perform only the leg position described in Beginner’s Tip below.
- Modifications & Props: Beginning students often find the balance in this pose very unstable. As with all standing balancing poses, you can use a wall to brace and support your back torso while you’re learning to balance.
- Variations: Here’s a challenging variation of Garudasana. From the completed pose as described above, exhale and lean your torso into a forward bend and press the bottom forearm against the thigh of the top leg. Hold for a few breaths, then come up with an inhale. Repeat on the second side for the same length of time.
- Preparatory Asanas:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
- Follow-up Asanas: Garudasana is usually sequenced near the end of the standing pose series. The arm position in the pose is particularly useful in learning how to widen the back torso in inverted poses like Adho Mukha Vrkshasana and Shirshasana. Other follow-up poses might include:
- Beginners Tip: Beginners often find it difficult to hook the foot of the top leg behind the calf of the standing leg, and then balance on the standing foot. As a short-term solution, cross the legs but, instead of hooking the foot and calf, press the big toe of the top leg’s foot against the floor to help maintain your balance.