Bird of Paradise Week

Housekeeping for week of July 18th-24th:  Subbing at 92nd street Equinox, Sunday July 24th and 31st, 5:30pm Level 1/2 Vinyasa class.  This class will be a bit less strenuous in comparison to my Tuesday night level 2 class. This particular class has fantastic energy and a lovely assortment of local yogis.  It is without a doubt one of my favorites to sub.  Please come!  And be my guest if you are not a member.

Bird of Paradise week is over, which comes as a huge relief to the majority of my students. This week we worked on some serious hip openers culminating in a grand assortment of pigeon pose variations.  The post about this past week is on its way! If you missed Bird of Paradise week check out the details below:)

This week in class I decided to go with a theme. The theme for this week has been Bird of Paradise Week, both regular and revolved. Sanskrit: Svarga Dvidasana and Parvivrtta Svarga Dvidasana.  There was no particular reason for this theme other than to take advantage of the warm weather and explore some poses that require a generous amount of hip mobility, which is facilitated by the heat.  Below is a picture of the actual bird of paradise flower.  It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring forms of nature.   As I prepared the sequence for the class, I focused on three things: hip mobility, shoulder mobility and stance leg stability. These are the three most important elements to consider when attempting to perform either regular Bird of Paradise or the more challenging Revolved Bird of Paradise. Bird-of-paradise FlowerI have always been a big fan of this pose…once I was able to do it, that is. The first time my teacher talked us through it, I can remember doing two things: first, in my head, I laughed hysterically.   “Do what???  Omg, that is hilarious!  There he goes again, telling us to do these impossible things.  Sheesh!  Oh…wait, he’s serious???”  Second, in my head, I muttered and had a temper tantrum as I realized I was about to be confronted with the thing I felt most uncomfortable with…Something That Is Hard For Me.

Lets talk first about what is important on a bio-mechanical level for Bird of Paradise.  We are most likely entering this pose from extended side angle pose.  Lets say we have the right foot forward, with the left foot posterior as in warrior II, rotated 45 degrees or so.  The right hip is flexed, the left hip is extended, and our torso is extended out over the top portion of our right thigh.  Our right palm or fingertips are on or towards the mat on the interior side of our right foot.  Our left arm is either fully extended towards the ceiling, or the left shoulder is flexed and our upper arm is next to our left ear, with our left scapula “packed”, meaning the fibers of the mid and lower trapezius are working to secure that our entire shoulder girdle is stable and a source of strength in the pose.

From here we will most likely be instructed to start the binding process.  Once again, when I was initially learning how to bind, at first the discomfort was so excruciating there was no room for a witty inner mono-log. There was only room for the most shallow of breaths, and an attention to the sensations of phsyical and spiritual resistance that was so strong as to overpower me.  This was easily 10 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I tell this story because I can easily recall feeling as though the bind preceding bird of paradise was forever out of my reach.
I also remember always getting several opportunities to practice, so much so that one day, the inevitable happened, and from my bound extended side angle pose I was able to shift my weight, maintain my bind and unfold into a fully extended Bird of Paradise pose, while still breathing! Miracles do exist! 

This week in class we also explored revolved Bird of Paradise.  This pose is significantly harder than its cousin, regular bird of paradise, because the bind is a closed hip bind, meaning that there has be enough room and mobility in both sides of the pelvic muscles and connective tissue for the hips to remain square while the bind serves to essentially max out the range of motion of both shoulders.  Revolved Bird of Paradise comes from a low or twisting lunge position rather than extended side angle pose.

I would like my class to be a place where students can come face to face with “Things That Are Hard”, but with practice, become “Things That Are Fun To Do.”  This past Tuesday there were enough different reactions to Bird of Paradise Week that to list them would be another blog post in of itself.  Suffice to say there is a range of emotion that is displayed in the studio when the sequence is tough, the asanas are challenging and students might feel like they are debating whether they should be out having cocktails with friends rather than attempting a pose named after a flower.

Is there something beautiful in your life that seems out of reach?  Maybe you could approach it as a process that may present some discomfort, some adjustments, some serious waves of doubt and disbelief, followed by intense feelings of joy and satisfaction.  We all – like the bird of paradise flower – have an intense beauty that will blossom if we nurture it with patience and practice.

See you next week in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.” O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966.

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden