All month long (National Yoga Month, ya’ll) we’ve been revisiting Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power and doing a little Baptiste Yoga Every Damn Day. Today, we are looking at Eagle pose or Garudasana. I’ve recently learned that in English we translate the root Sanskrit word “Garuda” into Eagle, but Garuda is actually a mythological, king of all birds, phoenix-like mount of Vishnu. His name literally means “devourer.” In this pose, we perch like a bird, but the balance, strength, and flexibility required to maintain it might just make us feel a little like a creature of mythical proportions.
Start in Mountain pose. Wrap the right leg over the left. Try to wrap the ankle of the right leg around the calf of the left leg. If you can’t do that, crossing the legs is fine. Squeeze the legs in together. Then, wrap the right arm under the left arm. Keep the elbows lifted so they are straight across from the shoulders, and keep the hands active and lifted away from the face. The arms should form an “L” shape.
Not only are you balancing on one leg, but your limbs can feel little twisted in knots. In yoga we use the term “drishti” when referring to the gaze of the eyes. It’s a tool that can assist in concentration, and it’s a practice in overcoming unconscious urges (to blink, to look around, to escape). The studio where I teach and practice overlooks a waterfront, and many times I find myself focusing my gaze on the water or maybe some ducks moving by. In Eagle pose, your view is largely obstructed by your arms. There is no calm brook to gaze at and calm my mind. You’re stuck staring at the freckles on your arms. You have to soften the gaze to look past the freckles, past the arms, past the walls of the building, and on and on to reach a place where you are just staring into nothing. Well, at first it feels like looking at nothing, but when you sit and gaze the edges blur and the world outside of you becomes unified into one thing. There is no separation from myself and everything out there. We are all of this one world. The separations and boundaries become devoured, and for just one moment, there is peace.