This shape creates FIRE in the entire body and enhances spinal alignment. It strengthens the low back (YES!) and promotes balance. As always, listen to your body and practice caution with any asana.
From Table Top, inhale to lift the left leg about hip height, flex the left foot with toes pointed down, lift the right arm up about shoulder height, spread the fingers, and point the thumb to the sky. Active your core and keep the weight evenly distributed between the left and right sides of the body. Exhale to release the leg and arm back down to starting position and switch sides. Switch up the breath patterns as needed to find new sensations in the body. Hold each side for several breaths to create some serious heat.
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER
Ground down through the lowered shin and hand, and lift up and out with the lifted arm and leg (think: pulling the arm and leg away from each other). Activate the glute of the lifted leg and keep the core engaged. As you hold this form, your mind will want to run away, but bring it back and remind yourself to breathe. Bird-dog builds strength and stability, especially if done regularly.
PROPS AND OTHER VARIATIONS
- Place a blanket under the knees if you feel any discomfort
- If you are unable to stay engaged, practice with:
- One leg extended back with the backs of the toes curled on the mat,
- One leg or one arm lifted (not both) or
- One leg lifted and the opposite arm extended out with the fingertips on the mat for added stability
Bird-dog is HARD. If you’re new to it, it can be a love-hate relationship (or more of just a hate at first). Don’t let your ego take you out of safe alignment. Meaning, if you are completely dumping into one side, see the other variations above. This can be adjusted to any level and mood (within reason), and some days are going to feel better than others. You can practice Bird-Dog within any part of your practice (beginning, middle, end) and you’ll build serious strength in the arms and core.
In my early practice-days, I never thought I’d be able hold myself in this posture comfortably. Most attempts were met with struggle and I let my mind wander uncontrollably. I would get so mad at myself for feeling weak. But I acknowledged it, worked through it, and got stronger. See? It’s so metaphorical. Apply that to any challenge in life and you’ve got yourself a process. Bird-dogs have become my baseline for more challenging postures and, quite frankly, more challenging life situations – when I’m in either, I think back to the basics: strong core, strong mind, and balance.
I truly encourage you to invite this posture into your practice often, especially if you don’t enjoy it. Dedicating a small bit of time on your mat to the forms or movements that you want to avoid will teach you a beautiful lesson in pursuing challenging moments that lead to something bigger than the fear of staying away from them. Tap in to your tapas.
Now, go on and get your Bird-Dog on! Let me know how it goes.