The Botany Of Yoga

Bird of Paradise is one of those poses that makes you believe yoga is a cousin of gymnastics. While gymnastics is more athletic, both disciplines require concentration techniques to maintain balance.  Both sides use twists to increase flexibility, and both practice inversions--even though a gymnast makes a handstand look like child’s play.  The flow of movement is where yoga looks more like a bohemian offshoot of the family tree than gymnastics.  Rather than focusing on the performance characteristics of a choreographed routine, a yoga vinyasa has a slow growth habit that nurtures the soul, especially when raising a confident Bird of Paradise. 

Bird of Paradise bears some resemblance to its showy namesake which features an ornamental bract extending out to one side of a fan-shape flower atop a long, rigid stem.  Svarga Dvijasana is a standing pose with one foot firmly rooted to the ground while the other leg is extended out to the side with support from your arm which is wrapped beneath the thigh and around to the back where hands are clasped together.  You’ll need to be as flexible as a vine to do Bird of Paradise, but if you imagine your back and shoulders as a trellis that supports the weight of the lifted leg, the effort will be more evenly distributed as you try to stand up straight.  

Just as plants require sunlight to thrive, the botany of yoga requires heat to cultivate exotic poses like Bird of Paradise.  Lotus teaches you to let go of stress stored in your hips so you can experience a fuller range of motion.  Tree pose gives you the confidence to balance on one leg and reach for the sky.  Bird of Paradise challenges the truth of your vertical axis because of its asymmetrical form. 

Bird of Paradise will feel less awkward if you allow it to germinate from warrior to bound side angle pose; then turn your feet parallel and move them closer together to bound standing forward bend; from here, rise up on one leg with the other thigh cradled in your arm; once your balance is stabilized, extend the leg into Bird of Paradise. 1 As you progress through the sequence of Bird of Paradise, your upper body will adapt to the pose more easily if you engage your back muscles to help elongate your posture.  

Stand tall, fix your gaze, and imagine you’re the yoga princess of the plant kingdom.

1.  http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yogapedia/bird-of-paradise-5-steps-to-master-this-standing-pose/