Five Pillars Yoga

Yoga Lab: Bird of Paradise

Finding Your Feet—We Mean Foot—in Svarga Dvijasana

Over the past several weeks we’ve been building up to a peak pose, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise.

First we broke down Extended Side Angle, a challenging pose in its own right that opens the hips and inner groins — a must for what’s to come. After that we tackled binds, exploring deep shoulder opening and spinal flexibility. In addition to being a bound inner-groin opener, Bird of Paradise is a standing balancing posture. It really doesn’t get much more dynamic than this.

Our lovely Five Pillars teacher Erika Mehiel got in front of the camera to demo the transition from Bound Extended Side Angle, with both feet on the ground, to one-footed Svarga Dvijasana. Here’s how she does it:

A centered self, a steady gaze, a clear shifting of weight, and plenty of breath. These, as Erika points out, are totally key elements to rising up and staying steady.


Also crucial? Retaining an open heart. Because we rise into this posture with a rounded back there’s a tendency to keep the lumbar spine puffed out and the shoulders hunched forward. More challenging in this shape than straightening the lifted leg is broadening the collarbones, supporting the low back with a strong belly and shining the heart up toward the ceiling.

Once upright, kiss the shoulder blades together around the spine and roll the shoulders back and down.


Keep thinking about streaming the hipbone of the standing leg forward while working the outward rotation of the lifted leg. To increase your likelihood of effortlessly pointing the toes of that leg toward the ceiling,  dive into hamstring openers when you’re on the ground. Forward folds — seated or standing — and half or full Hanumanasana (a.k.a. The Splits) will all help you get there.


Svarga Dvijasana is one of those poses that looks super impressive, but the final Ta-da! moment is the result of small steps, intentional preparation and steady practice.


Photos: Bound forward fold @laviebohemeyoga; bent leg variation from lifeesbella.tumblr; extended leg variation from