Embrace Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Embrace Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)In the yogic traditions, the peacock symbolizes beauty, strength, compassion, and the ability to destroy snakes or, more importantly, digest their venom. It is said that if you practice Mayurasana you will be able to digest the most toxic of poisons.  Not that I’m suggesting you go out and down some arsenic, but your digestion will certainly be stimulated. This pose, featured in our Spring 2012 catalog, strengthens the digestive system, stimulates metabolism, and purges your body of toxins by massaging the digestive organs, increasing the blood circulation, and strengthening the core. The story goes that each snake the peacock destroyed represented an earthly attachment — think clothing, jewelry, cars, houses, etc. What do we really need in life? As you practice this pose, try to take it in not only as a physical practice, but a practice of cultivating a true spirit of being liberated from the “things” in your life and reconnecting with what matters to you — family, community, health, personal growth, etc.

BUILD YOUR BASE. For this pose, you need strong shoulders, wrists and arms. Yes, I said strong wrists. A big part of building wrist strength is engaging in the hands and fingers. The position of the wrists is a little awkward as the fingers face toward the feet instead of the head. I have seen variations with the fingers facing toward the head, but this is the traditional alignment. The next key step is keeping your arms engaged towards each other.  Don’t let your elbows fly out to the side — they need to stay engaged toward the center.

STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE. I must sound like a broken record!! Core-core -core-core… There are infinite benefits to having a strong core. Your back will love you, food will be easier to digest, and of course you will feel amazing. The core is the center of your body — it is related to Manipura chakra. Manipura is the chakra of fire, of life force, of self identification.  Connecting to the solar plexus helps you cultivate a healthy sense of self. It’s NOT about the six pack — that’s just a nice side affect — it’s about our ability to digest our experiences as well as our food. By connecting and moving from your center, you bring your body and mind into harmony.  For this asana you need to engage your core to lift your legs off the ground and your torso up.

ENERGIZE YOUR BACK. A strong AND open back is key.  You need to be able to keep drawing your shoulders back while you lift your legs and chest off the earth. Building a strong core will help build back strength and opening not just the low back, but the upper back will help with the lifting part.

HAVE FAITH: The biggest opening that needs to happen is in your mind. So keep that thought when you are telling yourself you can’t.

BREATHE. What’s the most important element of your yoga practice? BREATH! If you are not breathing, you are not present. Go as slowly as necessary to maintain your breathing at all times.

Preparing for Mayurasana

Here are a few simple WRIST EXERCISES to energize and open the wrists. Not only do we want to open them up, but we want to build strength. Whenever your hands are on the earth, root down through the base of the thumb and base of the pointer finger, gradually bringing weight into the outside edges of the hand as well.

Wrist Circles

Wrist Circles – Arms long in front of you, take your thumb into your palm and make a fist. Circle to the right and then to the left. Try to keep the forearms stable.

Wrist Flex

Flex Wrists Down and Up – Left arm long in front of you, flex your fingers up, palm facing foreword. Right hand pulls base of your fingers towards your body. Then flexing the left fingers down palm towards you. Take your right hand and press your knuckles towards you. Repeat on 2nd side.

Flex Wrists on Ground

Flex Wrists on  Ground – To deepen the stretch, sit on the floor in Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) placing your hands on the floor with palms down, fingers  facing  you,  heel of the hands away. Hold. For a deeper opening, place the fingertips at your hip crease, facing you, and base of the palms on your thighs. Hold.

Plank with Wrist Flex

Plank with Wrist Flex – To strengthen and open your wrists, start on your knees and rotate your hands backwards fingers towards your knees, heels of the hands away from your body, palms on the floor. Stay here or lift up into plank pose. Hold.

As you do each of these BACK STRENGTHENERS keep drawing your shoulders onto your back

Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana (Cobra) - Palms by your side, slightly back from your shoulders, press into the earth and lift your chest up. Draw your shoulders onto your back and pull the heart foreword. To build back strength, take the weight out of the hands.

Locust Pose

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) – Arms on the floor by your side, slowly lift your chest, arms, and legs up. Draw your shoulders onto your back and pull the heart foreword. Repeat  to build strength.

Bow Pose

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) - Lay on your stomach and draw your heels into your hips. Reach back for the outside of your ankles with your hands.  To lift your torso up, kick into your hands with your ankles, drawing the heart foreword and shoulders onto your back.

Keep breathing as you strengthen your CORE!

Bicycle

Bicycle – Lay on your back and bring your knees and calves up to a 90 degree angle. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out. Extend the left leg and twist your torso and elbows  towards the right bent knee. Come back to center, draw both knees together, then switch sides. Repeat.

Leg Lifts

Leg Lifts – Lay on your back, legs up at a 90 degrees. Slowly lower your right leg down to hover off the earth. You can have your leg at any height to adjust for your strength. Slowly draw it back up and switch. Head and shoulders can be up off the earth for more challenge. I promise, smiling makes it easier! :-)

Keep your elbows drawing together the whole time as you work on these ARM STRENGTHENERS.

Dolphin Dog

Dolphin Dog  – Come into down dog and slowly lower down on to your forearms. Make sure to draw your elbows together and shoulders onto your back.

Forearm Plank

Forearm Plank with Block – Come to hands and knees, and lower down onto your forearms. If you want fire, bring a block in between your elbows  and squeeze. Walk your knees back so you are in one long line from your knees to your crown. For more fire, lift up into plank, but keep squeezing the elbows together!!

MAYURASANA (PEACOCK POSE)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Step 1 – Don’t freak out! The farthest you can fall is the height of your forearms…  so that’s eight-ish inches.

Step 2 – Bring your knees to the earth and elbows into your gut. Lower your palms down onto the earth, pointing your fingers towards you and the heels of your hands away.  Slowly bring weight onto your hands, starting to extend your knees back (one long line from your crown) and shoulders and head foreword. Elbows need to be at a 90 degree angle. If you let your elbows shoot back you will have no support — you have to lean foreword.

Step 3 – If you feel stable with your knees on the floor move to the next step which is lifting the knees off the floor, coming into plank pose with your elbows in your gut.

Step 4 – If you feel comfortable there, start to lean forward (maybe taking the head to the earth) to lift your back legs off the floor.  Engage the legs, squeezing them together, and lift from the core to come all the way up, like the photo of Drisana above.

Padma Mayurasana

Variation with Padma (Lotus) or Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose) – Sometimes it’s easier to lift up if you bring your knees closer in to your body. Try bringing the soles of your feet together into Baddha Konasana to lift up. Or, if you have open hips, wrap your legs together in lotus.

Pungu Mayurasana

One-Armed Variation (Pungu Mayurasana) – Yes, I said it — one arm!! For this variation, the hand that is on the earth has fingers facing foreword. Following the same process, start on your knees and bring the left elbow into your gut. Slowly lower down, using the fingertips of your right hand to support while you lift up your torso and legs, and gradually take your supporting fingers off of the earth.

Namaste, Hannah

P.S. Want me to help you with this pose in person? Then come to the Soulshine Retreat in Bali February 5th – 12th, 2012! Click here for more info »

Photos of Hannah by Bretography

HANNAH FRANCO is a yoga teacher and designer for Athleta. She began her exploration of yoga during her second year of art school. The incredible feeling of presence and lack of stress that unfolded after her exposure to yoga led her to direct every aspect of her life towards it. She took a transformational trip to India to deepen her studies in 2008, where she was certified. Her focus as a teacher is to bring community together and harmonize the way we all interact with compassion and love. Her classes are a blend of Hatha yoga and Vinyasa, and are suitable for all levels with an emphasis on creativity, steadiness and presence. For more from Hannah, visit HannahFrancoYoga.com »

Comments

  1. Alix Klein says:

    Omg! You can do a one armed awesomeness! That is so cool!

    Like: Thumb up 5

  2. Great job Hannah!What an inspiration. I am just beginning yoga but thats an awesome goal to work towards!Thank you for sharing!

    Like: Thumb up 1

  3. I was OK till I got toward the end! ;-) No really, this is amazing!!!! I so plan to try yoga this year! At 54, it is about time! :-)

    Like: Thumb up 3

  4. Jaymee says:

    What incredible strength and grace! Goal-worthy is an understatement.

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  5. Jo says:

    Mu jaw dropped so low it was a new personal record… I have seen many “impossible” (to me) positions in the past but this one took the cake. I am totally and absolutely amazed by the skill of the yogini ladies in these photos!

    Like: Thumb up 2

  6. Jane says:

    Okay,
    This is ridiculous and dangerous, plus one has a high risk of injury! Wrists, tendons and ligaments were NOT designed to be manipulated and distorted in this manner.
    Try at your own risk!

    Like: Thumb up 2

  7. Marva says:

    I love yoga! At Jane… anything we do can cause injury. Yoga should teach us to listen to our bodies and do what is best for us not the person on the mat beside us. There are so many different yoga poses no need to do something that does not work for you. Thanks Hannah and Athleta Chi for the demonstration.

    Like: Thumb up 3

  8. Kathy says:

    thanks so much for your insight. i teach yoga as well, and coincidentally we are working on peacock pose in class this month. This definitely reinforces the physical and spiritual benefits of the pose :)

    Like: Thumb up 1

  9. Kath says:

    wow—-wow–this is something to strive for this year. I pared down my list of resolutions but can add this one in. I will make daily strides toward this pose.

    Like: Thumb up 0

  10. Hannah Franco says:

    Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and inspiration! One of my hero’s Tao Porchin Lynch rocks Mayurasana at 92!!! What a powerful graceful woman!

    This discussion about injury is an important point. Jane yes it is possible to injure yourself doing Mayurasana, or any other yoga pose for that matter. And I love how you put it Marva “do what is best for us not the person on the mat beside us“ the best way to avoid injury in ALL parts of your life is to be present. If you are present and breathing you will feel no need to extend yourself past what is possible for your body this is an advanced pose and should be practiced with good instruction and awareness. I can’t tell you how many students ive seen throwing themselves through their practice even when more basic options are encouraged. The larger questions is how are you approaching your practice what are you asking for from it. Peace of mind, work out, healing… etc.. the benefits of yoga are infinite and the way you chose to practice determines what your experience is.

    The sequence I provided here is meant to prepare you for the pose as you go through the sequence when you reach a point where you are no longer breathing easily or you feel pain you stop and work the stage before to build strength and flexibility and more body awareness. Then when you are ready you progress! It makes me so happy you are having such a good time exploring this pose It’s great to hear all your stories and experiences keep them coming!!

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  11. Maria6491 says:

    parts of the feet are “HEELS” not “HEALS”

    Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) – Lay on your stomach and draw your heals into your hips.

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  12. Maria6491 says:

    This should read “your knees” rather than “you knees” –
    and directional movement to the front is “foreward” rather than “foreword”. (“Foreword” is an introduction to a manuscript.)

    Step 2 – Bring you knees to the earth and elbows into your gut. Lower your palms down onto the earth, pointing your fingers towards you and the heels of your hands away. Slowly bring weight onto your hands, starting to extend your knees back (one long line from your crown) and shoulders and head foreword. Elbows need to be at a 90 degree angle. If you let your elbows shoot back you will have no support — you have to lean foreword.

    Like: Thumb up 0

  13. Team Athleta says:

    Maria6491, thanks for catching the typos!

    Like: Thumb up 0

  14. Tricia says:

    Amazing!!! What a great goal you gave me to accomplish!!

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  15. Sambho says:

    Its a very well done Mayurasana, many men they can’t handle this amazing pose which can help us also to be less judgmental , towards Yoga like state! We like Yoginis/Yogi we should exercise to focus more in “light” and being less judgmental, we are so judgmental we re loosing the foundation of Yoga with meticulous judgmental details of left side brain. Let both side of brain to be friends :)

    You rock Hannah keep shinning !!!

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  16. Christine says:

    This is incredible..both of these woman’s strength is inspiring!!

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  17. Meghan says:

    One hand! Holy cow!

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  18. Ana says:

    I just started learning yoga, and these poses are definitely in my impossible list right now. The woman in these pictures are an inspiration!

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  19. Natalie says:

    Peacock is one of my favorite poses, but it took almost a year to master. As one of the traditional Indian poses, the digestive benefits are unmatched. I am a yoga teacher who has digestive issues from time to time and peacock is the best relief I have found.

    I totally agree with the comments to be in your body and practice ahimsa to yourself. A great beginner variation of this pose is wide-legged child’s pose, taking your hands into fists, massaging the digestive organs and leaning forward. This variation brings similar benefits.

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