Svarga Dvijasana - TINT Yoga

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Svarga Dvijasanas Bird of Paradise

    Quick Facts

  • Sanskrit (Original): Svarga Dvijāsana
  • Etymology: Heaven (svarga); twice-born (dvija); pose (āsana)
  • Fun Fact about the pose: The literal translation of this pose into English is ‘twice-born in heaven’.
  • Asana Type: Balancing, Standing
  • Main length muscle groups: Lifted leg: hamstrings, adductors, pectineus, gracilis, gluteus medius and minimus; deltoids, pectoralis major, serratus anterior
  • Main strength muscle groups: Lifted leg: Illiacus, psoas, tensor fascia latae; Standing leg: quadriceps, glutes, calf muscles; obliques, rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum
  • Vinyasa Breath: Inhale

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How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step

  • 1Start in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), making sure your front leg is bent with the knee above the ankle and the back leg is firm and straight.
  • 2On an exhale, bend the torso towards the front leg and bring the front arm under the front thigh.
  • 3Lift the back arm up toward the sky, inwardly rotate it and wrap it behind your back.
  • 4Interlace your fingers behind your back.
  • 5Keep the font leg bent and start twisting the torso to the sky to arrive in Bound Extended Side Angle Pose (Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana).
  • 6Look down toward your feet and move the back foot forward to almost meet the front foot.
  • 7Straighten both legs and twist your torso toward the midline.
  • 8The free (unbound) leg is going to be your standing leg. Shift your body weight into this foot. Spread the toes to evenly distribute the weight over the foot.
  • 9Once you feel your other foot becomes lighter, start lifting it off the floor.
  • 10Keep the lifted leg bent for now and focus on opening the chest by rolling the shoulders up and back.
  • 11Focus your gaze on a steady point (Drishti).
  • 12Hug the midline of your entire body. Pull the navel in and up to activate the core muscles.
  • 13Lift the torso higher to come to standing.
  • 14Start extending the lifted leg to the side without letting the hip of the standing leg pop out to the side.
  • 15Maintain your Drishti steady and lift the chest and chin slightly up to extend the spine. Keep on hugging the midline.
  • 16To release Svarga Dvijasana, bend both legs slightly and lean your torso forward again until you can comfortably release the bind of your hands.

Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose

  • Straighten the spine: Many practitioners are so obsessed with the idea of standing up and lifting the leg as high as possible in Bird of Paradise that this often compromises the alignment of the spine. The tendency here is to round the spine and hunch the shoulders forward. The hips often poke back. Instead, focus on straightening the spine and accept that the lifted leg does not come as high as your ego wants it to. Also, allow yourself to bend the lifted leg a little bit as this will give you more range of motion in the hip joint to tilt it forward and, as a result, lengthen the spine.
  • Keep the standing foot facing forward: Another common observation is that the supporting foot is rotated inwards or outwards. However, this brings the central axis of the body out of alignment and creates a lot of strain on the knee and hip joints. This is why you want to keep the supporting foot facing forward with the knee stacked above the ankle. Also, keep the supporting hip in the same line, i.e. don’t let it stick out to the side. Spread the toes to distribute your body weight evenly over the entire foot.
  • Contract the quadriceps: Engaging the quadriceps on the standing leg allows for better support and rooting into the ground. But also the quadriceps of the lifted leg should be engaged. As they are the antagonists of the hamstrings, which need to lengthen a lot in Bird of Paradise, engaging the quadriceps allows the hamstrings to lengthen more and to open further without strain.

Adapting The Pose Through Modifications

Simplify

  • Use a strap around the thigh if your shoulders don’t allow for enough range of motion to bind your arms around your leg. This will also make it easier to keep the chest open as well as the hip.
  • Another option in case of a limited range of motion in the shoulders and chest is to hold onto the shin of the lifted leg (keeping it bent) instead of wrapping your arm around it.
  • There’s nothing wrong with keeping the lifted leg bent for starters. Focus on opening the groins first. Once this is done, it will also be easier to lengthen the hamstrings and extend the leg.
  • If you struggle with balance in Svarga Dvijasana, practice it against a wall.
  • ​​Similarly, you can practice Bird of Paradise from a seated position by lifting one leg and wrapping your arms around the extended leg. This way, you will balance on your sit bones rather than on one leg only.

Level Up

  • Practice the transitions to really level up your Bird of Paradise. This can include entering the pose from the ground halfway into the pose and back to the ground again as well as dynamically bending and extending the lifted leg once you are upright in the pose. Repeat either one of these two actions dynamically a couple of times and make them a mini drill in Bird of Paradise Pose.
  • If you are a pro in the pose already try practicing Bird of Paradise by balancing on tiptoes or standing on a block or a rolled yoga mat to make the ground more wobbly.
  • Challenge your sense of balance and practice Bird of Paradise with your eyes closed.

Benefits of Svarga Dvijasana

  • Bird of Paradise is a great posture to challenge your sense of balance. This will also help you in everyday life and all kinds of activities.
  • Most of all, this asana is a great hamstring stretch and opens the groins.
  • Svarga Dvijasana also stretches the shoulders and chest.
  • As you need a lot of core strength to stay upright in this pose, Svarga Dvijasana works the oblique muscles, the abdominal muscles as well as the muscles of the back.
  • The standing leg and foot need to work a lot in order to keep you standing in Bird of Paradise, thus they are getting stronger and stronger every time you practice.

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This pose is challenging for most students and often the ego wants to get into the pose before the body is ready. So the real challenge is to accept the body’s capability and quieten the ego.

Doreen

Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher

FAQ: Common questions about this pose

The literal translation of the Sanskrit name Svarga Dvijasana is 'twice-born in heaven’' However, the shape of this pose resembles the flower 'Bird of Paradise', which has a long stalk with a blossom that grows horizontally. The body takes almost the same shape: the extended leg mimics the petals and the supporting leg is the stalk.

This certainly depends on the flexibility and sense of balance of the practitioner but, in general, Svarga Dvijasana is one of the more advanced yoga poses. This is because it does not only require a solid sense of balance but also quite a lot of flexibility in the hips and shoulders as well as in the hamstrings. These actions make it a very challenging asana, which is usually only available to more experienced students.

Extending the lifted leg in Bird of Paradise pose requires a lot of length in the hamstrings. As they originate at the sit bone, they will pull the pelvis into a posterior (backward) tilt if they aren’t flexible enough. In addition to that, wrapping your arms around the extended leg requires open shoulders. For this action, on the other hand, the pelvis needs to be in an anterior (forward) tilt. So, if you want to bind your arms and stay upright, this will go at the cost of the length of the hamstrings. As a result, the extended leg will be bent in order for the pelvis to move into an anterior tilt. This is why it is a good idea to work on hamstring flexibility first if you want to attempt the full pose. Great poses for that are any single-legged hamstring stretches such as Ardha Hanumanasana, Ardha Paschimottanasana or any version of Padangustasana.

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