Anatomy of a Pose: Eagle to Toppling Tree



Photography by Kevin Brice Garner

Eagle Pose

Since this is a balancing pose, it helps to incorporate focus, stability, and foundation. Eagle pose helps firm the abdominal wall and increases flexibility of the upper and lower extremities in your joints. Because of the amount of compression created within the pose, some people also experience fresh, oxygenated blood flow to the legs and organs.

Feet and Legs

1. Begin by grounding down into both feet and finding a focal point in front of you that doesn’t move. You will continue to focus on this point as you come in to the pose.

2. Shift your weight to the left foot as you cross your right leg over your left and bring your toes behind your calf. (Note: If you cannot fully wrap your foot behind your calf, use your foot as a kickstand.) 

3. Anchor more into your heel so you feel lighter on your toes and less pressure around your standing ankle.

Arms and Head

1. Cross your right arm under your left to wrap your elbows and wrists while bringing your palms together to touch.

2. Lift your elbows up and away to feel a stretch between your shoulder blades. (Modification: If Eagle arms are not accessible for you, give yourself a big bear hug instead.) 

Pelvis and Spine

1. Lift in and up on your belly button for core support in your lower back. You might even feel your pelvis naturally draw down.

2. Lift your chest slightly up.

3. Lengthen your spine by extending up through the crown of your head as if you were leaning up against a wall.

Repeat all these steps on the other side.

 

Transitioning from Eagle to Toppling Tree

1. From Eagle, maintain balance in your standing leg and lift your right thigh to parallel with mat. Release right leg behind you and extend, returning foot to mat. 

2. Cup your palms together behind your back, interlace your fingers and continue to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you reach your arms back. Maintain your grip.

3. Start to slowly dip your chest toward the floor as your leg lifts higher behind you.

4. The more you lean your upper body forward, the higher your leg will lift. Try to maintain a straight line from the crown of your head to the end of your back foot no matter how far
you tilt forward.

5. Maintain the core strength you set up in Eagle as you transition into Toppling Tree. 

Repeat all these steps for the other side.

 

Airplane

Since this is a balancing pose, Airplane helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles and legs. It brings in space through the front of the chest (around the heart), which helps to counter the caving in of the shoulders if a person sits a lot, whether because of their job or lifestyle.

Feet and Legs

1. Begin by grounding down into both feet and finding a focal point in front of you that does not move. You will continue to focus on this point as you come in to the pose.

2. Shift your weight over to the left foot as you place your right foot directly behind you and use your toes as a kickstand at first.

3. Start to synchronize the straightening of your left leg as you begin to lift your right foot off the ground.

4. Both legs need to be straight and strong, but keep a softness in the knees. As you straighten the left leg, think of pressing the head of the thighbone back. This centers the femur in the hip joint, grounds the heel into the floor, and stabilizes the position of your standing leg.

5. Energize the back leg and extend it strongly towards the wall behind you as you become diagonal or even parallel to the floor depending on how expressive you want the pose to be.

6. Release your hip (of the raised leg) toward the floor until the two hip points are even and parallel to the floor.

7. Keep your right foot engaged (pointing or flexing) to keep your right leg active. Continue to ground down into your left foot.

Arms and Head

As you prepare your legs for the pose, also prepare your arms at the same time.

1. Start with your arms at a low V with your palms facing forward.

2. Once you begin to tilt forward and lift your right leg, begin to squeeze your shoulder blades together and your arms will stay in the V position.

3. As you tilt forward, your palms will begin to face the floor. You do not need to make any adjustments with your wrists; this will happen naturally. Continue to wrap your shoulder blades and your arms back as you reach your heart forward at the same time.

Pelvis and Spine

1. Lift in and up on your belly button for core support in your lower back and stability for your upper body.

2. Lift your chest slightly up as you draw your shoulder blades towards one another.

3. Keep a long and lengthy spine by extending energy through the crown of your head.

Transitioning from Airplane to Toppling Tree

1. When you find a stable and comfortable expression of Airplane pose, cup your palms together behind your back, interlace your fingers and continue to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you reach your arms back. Maintain your grip.

2. Start to slowly dip your chest toward the floor as your leg lifts higher behind you.

3. The more you lean your upper body forward, the higher your leg will lift. Try to maintain a straight line from the crown of your head to the end of your back foot no matter how far you tilt forward.

4. Maintain the strength you set up in Airplane pose regarding your legs, feet and abdomen as you transition into Toppling Tree. 

Repeat all these steps for the other side.

 

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