Want to learn more about Bird of Paradise Pose or Svarga Dvijasana? In this post, I share the benefits of Bird of Paradise Pose, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step video, modifications and more.
Let’s get this right out there: Bird of Paradise Pose is an advanced yoga pose. It is an intense pose that requires flexibility, balance and strength. Your legs, hips, arms and back have to work hard in Bird of Paradise. Plus it is a one-legged standing pose — with a bind! Who comes up with these poses?
But you know what? It’s actually doable for a lot of people — and by using props like a yoga strap or wall you can learn how to create your own Bird of Paradise.
I have always related this pose to the bird called the Bird of Paradise. The males have evolved to have unique feather patterns that they use in dances to find a mate. And when we practice this pose, we each do our own unique pose, often hopping around our mat trying to find our balance.
This pose takes most of us a long time to translate into our bodies and it requires steady focus. If you rush into this pose, you’re asking for trouble (or an injury). As always, I recommend patience and practice. Take your time with Bird of Paradise Pose and it will teach you how to fuel this focus in your life, not just in your yoga practice.
- Bird of Paradise Pose Quick Facts
- Bird of Paradise Pose Benefits
- Precautions & Contraindications
- Myths & Misconceptions About Svarga Dvijasana
- Bird of Paradise Pose Breakdown
- Modifications & Variations
- Yoga Poses Related to Svarga Dvijasana
- Related Posts & Videos
- Gear & Resources for This Pose
- A Final Note About Svarga Dvijasana
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Bird of Paradise Pose Quick Facts
|English||Bird of Paradise Pose|
|Meaning||Svarga means heaven or paradise – specifically it refers to the Indra’s heaven where your Self goes before being reborn / reincarnated.|
Dvi (or Dwi) means two.
Dvija means twice born.
Asana means pose or posture.
Svarga Dvijasana means Twice Born in Heaven, which we translate into English as Bird of Paradise Pose. There is logic to this — “twice born” is a categorization of things that, well, get born twice. All birds fit into this category of “twice born”. You can read more about what that means in the Myths & Misconceptions section below.
Bird of Paradise Pose Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Bird of Paradise Pose here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
Because of the asymmetrical form of this pose, what it strengthens on one side it is often stretching on the other side.
The main physical benefits of Bird of Paradise Pose include:
- Strengthens biceps and triceps
- Stretches anterior deltoid
- Strengthens posterior deltoid
- Stretches pectoralis major
- Strengthens trapezius, rhomboids and levator scapulae
- Strengthens latissimus dorsi
- Strengthens erector spinae (back extensors)
- Strengthens abdominals (transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, obliques)
- Stretches hamstrings
- Strengthens quads
- Strengthens gluteus maximum, medius and minimus
- Stretches gluteus medius and minimus
- Standing on one leg strengthens your ankle joint and knee on the standing leg – that’s a load of muscles, including tibialis anterior, extensors digitorum and hallucis longus, your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus), tibialis posterior and several others
- Helps improve your balance
- Helps open groins and hips
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people! Some of the reasons you may want to avoid practicing Svarga Dvijasana include being pregnant, having a disc injury in your spine, or blood pressure complications. Always consult with your medical professional if you have concerns.
- If you have a hip or shoulder injury, you likely want to avoid Bird of Paradise. I mean, look at it. I suspect that was pretty obvious.
- If you have low back pain, be cautious entering Bird of Paradise Pose as it can strain your low back.
- If you have high blood pressure, this pose can cause light-headedness or fainting. Getting into the pose brings your head below your heart and compresses your chest. You may like practicing a modified version on a chair — see Modifications section below.
- If you are pregnant, you likely want to avoid this pose due to the pressure Bird of Paradise Pose applies to your lower abdomen.
- If you have a knee injury, you will likely want to avoid practicing Svarga Dvijasana.
- If you have sacroiliac joint instability or pain, it is best to avoid Bird of Paradise for the time being. The asymmetrical shape of the pelvis, combined with the large amount of pressure being exerted into the hip and lower back, means this pose will likely make your pain worse.
Myths & Misconceptions About Svarga Dvijasana
The literal translation of the Sanskrit for Bird of Paradise Pose — Svarga Dvijasana — means The Pose of the Twice Born in Heaven (or Paradise). But what does that mean?
“Twice born” is a categorization of things that get born twice.
All birds fit into this category of twice born (along with any reptiles or caterpillars). These animals all go through a transformative gestation period inside an egg shell or cocoon.
Teeth are also said to be twice born. You start with one set of teeth and they die and are born again when your first set is replaced with your adult teeth.
Anyone who goes through a ritualized transformative experience is also considered twice born.
In Hinduism, twice born refers a person who undergoes the Brahman ritual of Upanayana. This is when student is accepted by their guru to begin their Brahman training.
All Hindu priests, called Brahman, undergo the Upanayana ritual and it is this ritual that is said to be their rebirth. After this ritual they are referred to as dvija — or twice born.
In other cultures you find different rites of passage including baptism, camping trips, bar/bat mitzvahs, rumspringa, confirmation… which may also fall into the twice born category.
And then there is the concept of reincarnation, which is meant to be a literal rebirth.
Take me down to Paradise City
And this brings us to Svarga. For Svarga doesn’t just refer to heaven, or paradise. Svarga (or Swarga) is a specific heaven. It is the heaven that exists in the area of the heavens that is ruled by the Hindu god Indra.
When your soul/consciousness/Self leaves your body and you have been fortunate enough to be reborn, your soul goes to Svarga to await rebirth.
Isn’t it named after Bird of Paradise the flower?
I have read beautifully poetic descriptions of this pose that describe the tropical flower the Bird of Paradise. The descriptions often compare your standing leg to the plant’s stalk, with your leg/head/arm/elbow combination representing the erratic petals of the flower.
I also like to remind students of the bird that we call the Bird of Paradise. These birds have evolved their feather patterns to make incredible displays, and they use these feather in their intricate mating ritual dances. Each bird’s feather pattern and dance is unique, much like your practice of Svarga Dvijasana is unique.
If you consider other poses named after sages or Gods — Visvamitrasana, Vasisthasana, Astavakrasana, Hanumanasana for example — these are all complicated poses that take years (or several lifetimes) to master.
For this reason, I side with scholars who posit that Bird of Paradise, another complicated pose, is named after the bird — all of which are twice born and therefore heavenly, or of paradise.
Stretches “all the muscles in the human body”
I read in more than one place that Bird of Paradise Pose stretches every muscle in your body. Wow. That’s roughly 640 muscles (no one can really agree on how many there are). I mean, that is really impressive.
What a fantastic pose. Wait…. let me be clear: I am joking.
It is ridiculous to claim that any single pose stretches all of your muscles. Let’s just think for a second about that. Every muscle. There are 34 muscles in each of your hands.
Are they all getting stretched while your are flexing many of them to clasp your hands? No. The answer is no. And we could find many other muscles that are not stretching in this pose, like your tongue, or the muscles that control your eye movements, to name a few.
I’ll say this about Bird Of Paradise Pose: it strengthens and stretches a lot of muscles. Plus, it feels great when you start to learn how to balance in it. And isn’t that enough? Aren’t those great reasons to practice it?
Bird of Paradise Pose Breakdown
How to do Svarga Dvijasana / Bird of Paradise Pose
Bird of Paradise Pose is a precarious posture to practice. Patience will see you through this pose.
There are two common entries that are taught for this pose. I break down the entry from Uttanasana below. My Yoga Pose Breakdown video above walks you through the entry from Uttanasana as well as the second entry, which is from Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose).
- Stand in Tadasana at the top of your mat.
- Separate your feet a little wider than hip width apart.
- Fold forward into a slightly wide Uttanasana.
- Bend your knees a little and reach your right arm back between your legs.
- Stretch your right arm back with your palm up. Bend your knees more so you can stretch it back further.
- Internally rotate your right arm. To do this, turn your thumb up until your palm is facing out to the right. Turn your arm in even more if you are able.
- Bend your right elbow and place the back of your right hand on your low back/butt/thigh somewhere. Your hips might get in the way and you may have to lift your hand a little more to get it up and over your hip.
- Stretch your left arm up and internally rotate your left arm. To do this, turn your left thumb to the left so that your palm faces behind you.
- Bend your left elbow so that the back of your left hand slides down your back.
- Place your left wrist into your right hand and hold your left wrist with your right hand. You can also clasp your fingers, or use a yoga strap if you cannot bring your hands to touch.
- Shift your weight to your left foot and slide your right foot over towards your left slightly.
- Push your right shoulder back into your right leg, and resist with your right leg.
- Lift your right shoulder, head and chest and start to stand up.
- Be careful as your right foot starts to come off the ground. Squeeze your right heel in to help find your stability here.
- Push your right shoulder back and down and resist with your right leg.
- Push down through your left foot and straighten your left leg. Stand up tall.
- Lift through your right heel and engage your right knee. Straighten your right leg.
- Look over your left shoulder.
- This is Bird of Paradise Pose — Svarga Dvijasana.
Modifications & Variations
Don’t be in a rush. I say this several times in this post because it is really important. Take your time.
Be aware of your shoulders. It is easy to hunch or round your shoulders in Bird of Paradise. Be aware of this and work to move your shoulders down your back, where they are more stable and strong.
Check out the Preparatory Poses section below for lots of suggestions of poses you can use to help prepare you for Svarga Dvijasana including Trikonasana (Triangle), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Fold), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose).
If you are having trouble balancing
Practice near a wall or have your yoga chair next to you so that your can lean on that if you need to. Use the wall to support you while you learn how to stand and then find your way to balancing on your own without the wall.
To straighten leg or not
Straightening your lifted leg is the final flourish of Bird of Paradise but is an action that is wholly dependent on your hip and hamstring flexibility. This will improve over time if you practice, so don’t force anything.
Instead of straightening your leg completely, keep it bent at your knee to ease some strain. Work to your potential and up to the edge, but not beyond it. This will help you build up muscle strength and length over time.
There is lots of work to do when your top leg is bent. Work on your balance, deepen the clasp of your hands, work to open your chest and stabilise your shoulder on your back.
Take a seat
You can practice this pose by sitting on a chair for extra support. This will also make the pose more accessible if you have high blood pressure. You may be able to access the pose without bringing your head below your heart.
If you can’t hold your opposite wrist
You can hold a yoga strap in your left hand to, essentially, make your left arm longer. Then when you take your left arm up and over your back, your can hold the strap in your right hand.
Yoga Poses Related to Svarga Dvijasana
- Marjaryasana / Bitilasana / Cat & Cow Pose
- Tadasana / Mountain Pose
- Uttanasana / Forward Fold Pose
- Ardha Uttanasana / Half Forward Fold Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide Leg Forward Fold
- Utthita Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
- Baddha Trikonasana / Bound Triangle Pose
- Salabhasana / Locust Pose
- Paschimottanasana / Seated Forward Fold
- Janu Sirsasana / Forehead to Knee Pose
- Indudalasana / Standing Side Bend
- Vrksasana / Tree Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Cobbler’s Pose
- Utthita Parsvakonasana / Extended Side Angle Pose
- Baddha Parsvakonasana / Bound Side Angle Pose
- Surya Yantrasana / Sundial Pose
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana / Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
- Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana / Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose
- Utthita Eka Padasana / Extended One Leg Pose
- Uttanasana / Forward Fold Pose
- Utthita Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
- Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Balasana / Child’s Pose
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Savasana / Corpse Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Ardha Chandra Chapasana / Sugarcane Pose or Bound Half Moon Pose
- Anantasana / Vishnu’s Couch Pose
- Astavakrasana / Eight Angle Pose
- Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana / Revolved Hand to Big Toes Pose
- Visvamitrasana / The Sage Visvamitra’s Pose
- Hanumanasana / Hanuman’s Pose (Full Splits)
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Trikonasana Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Post: How to do Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana – Yoga Pose Tutorial & Benefits
- Video: Yoga Pose Breakdown | How to do Bird of Paradise Pose (aka Svarga Dvijasana)
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Folding Yoga Chair
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A Final Note About Svarga Dvijasana
Bird of Paradise is a fully packed pose. It’s a hip opener, a standing pose, a one-legged balancing pose and, as if that weren’t enough, it is also a bind.
Before practicing it, prepare yourself. Prepare yourself physically using the long list of Preparatory Poses I recommend above. Also, prepare yourself mentally to practice falling and getting back up again. Recognizing the challenges of the pose will allow you to face it openly, with the focus and awareness that it takes to tackle such an intricate pose.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post helps you find ways that Bird of Paradise Pose can support you on your yoga adventure. I believe that the more deeply you go into your yoga practice, the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!