The bird of paradise is a challenging yoga pose I learned recently that I really love! I am still working on it and hope to get my leg up higher as I improve, but wanted to show you the pose anyways. As I often remind myself, yoga (or honestly any activity) is something you practice, not something you do. So, you are always evolving and growing and what is difficult today will one day become natural and enjoyable!
This pose builds on balance, flexibility, and strength. I also love the name because bird of paradise flowers are so cool, and remind me of the tropical conservatory at Como back home in Minnesota, one of my favorite places! If you have tight hamstrings or the full leg extension is not available to you, try a modified version as shown here, with the knee bent.
While working toward the full pose, stop at any point when you begin to feel overly challenged, and just settle into that pose until it is comfortable. That may be where you stop today, and that’s ok!
Here is a video of one way to get into this position. I move quickly through the poses here for demonstration purposes, but take your time and flow with your breath.
I’m sure there are multiple approaches to begin the stretch, but I like to start in a warrior 2 pose, then lean my upper body forward into a triangle stretch. This is the first tricky part: wrap your lower arm around under your bottom thigh to reach back behind your leg, then wrap your upper arm behind your back and clasp your hands together. You will now be in a bound triangle pose. This is a great place to stay and ground yourself, and it is very challenging in itself. You can also bring a strap or short elastic band in between your hands if you can’t quite reach your opposite hands - this can help you feel the bind position and continue on in the pose.
Now here comes a part that is just inherently a bit awkward and ungraceful, no matter what. Step or hop your back foot in under your body. Shift your weight out of the front foot and into the back foot, first gently placing your front toes on the ground, then slowly standing all the way up while maintaining the bind of your arms. Hold the pose with the bent knee until you feel stable, then straighten your leg as much as possible.
Ta da! You are now an exotic, tropical yoga bird.