Garudasana or Eagle Pose is one of the most strengthening and freeing poses. When I first learned this pose in class, my instructor would tell us to feel like the eagle looking over the cliffs, to stay balanced but strong, and to feel a sense of freedom to go where we pleased.
When we practice poses named after animals, it is important to note why these poses are named such, and to feel the energy of that name flow in the poses themselves. The eagle carries a lot of connotations with it, particularly in western culture. For whatever this symbol means to you incorporate it into your expression of this pose.
How to Practice
Begin by standing in tadasana or mountain pose. Inhale lift your right leg to make a 90 degree angle with your left leg, and your arms out to be parallel with the ground. Exhale bending the left leg and wrapping the right leg in front and around, at the same time bring your right arm over your left, under and up so that your arms are twisted and your palms are facing each other. Inhale lengthing your spine and bringing your arm up and in front of your face. Exhale bending your legs and sinking your seat. Make sure your lower abdomen is contracted to protect your back. Stay for five breaths. Inhale straightening your knees and unwinding your arms and legs out in front of you. Exhale release back to tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
While in this pose also enjoy the cleansing feeling in the abdomen. When you feel this burning of the abdomen, think of it as a cleansing fire in your third chakra burning away all of the unnecessary parts to make room for better things to come.
If you are having trouble staying balanced try resting your suspended foot on a block. If this is still too difficult for you, try other asanas to prep for this pose, including utkatasana, or chair pose, or standing in tadasana and practicing with just the arm twists.
If you need to up the difficulty of this pose, try standing straighter, or coming lower for a more intense sensation in the abdomen. Also try just simply extending the arms when twisted, opening up the shoulders more.
Garudasana has many benefits including, strengthening the ankles, opening the shoulders, good for asthma, and improving the lower back and sciatica. It should not be practiced by people with ankle problems, low blood pressure, or knee injuries.
Gomukhasana, or cow faced pose, is a great follow up to garudasana; however this is a difficult pose and I would recommend for any beginner to only do the arm portion sitting in hero’s pose, or virasana.
As I have said, to prep for this pose try focusing on utkatasana. Utkatasana will help build the strength needed in the abdomen as well as the knees and ankles. As always I recommend starting all standing balancing poses with vrksasana.