Want to learn more about Garudasana, aka Eagle Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Garudasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step video, modifications and more.
Garudasana is a great humbler. At least for me. Single-leg standing poses challenge me to this day. This pose has a way of bringing me down to Earth, which is sort of ironic since it’s named for a god who can fly. More on that later.
If you have any weakness in your ankles, that instability is going to make itself known in this pose. But that’s one of the great benefits of Garudasana. All that play and sway with your ankle, knee and hip helps build strength in those same areas.
Eagle Pose for the win!
But I know how it is — we avoid the poses that challenge us the most, especially if they are poses we consider “easy” or “beginner”. So my lesson here is: Stephen, you should do more Garudasana (and more Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Vrksasana).
Face your weaknesses and you will build strength in those very places.
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Garudasana Quick Facts
|Meaning||Garuda means eagle, or more specifically it refers to Garuda, a god with the form of an eagle.|
Asana means pose or posture.
Garudasana means Eagle Pose or you could even call it Garuda’s Pose.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Garudasana 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.
The main physical benefits of Garudasana include:
- Stretches your upper back and shoulders.
- Strengthens your ankles, calves, and knees.
- Also stretches calf (leg on bottom stretches, leg on top strengthens when plantar flexed).
- Improves balance.
- Can helps alleviate sciatica if practiced without straining excessively.
- Builds strength in hip stabilizers.
- Strengthens ankles and increase flexibility in shoulder joints.
- Said to help build concentration which can help with your mediation practice.
- Builds strength in the intrinsic muscles of your feet.
- Strengthens your hamstrings.
- Builds strength in your core.
- Can help release tightness in your lower back.
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! If you require extra support in this pose see the Modifications section below.
- If you have arthritis in your knees, you may wish to avoid Garudasana.
- If you had a recent knee, ankle, or shoulder injury, you may wish to modify or avoid Garudasana.
- If you have high blood pressure, you may want to do a modified version with your ankles crossed.
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found a significant increase in blood pressure when participants crossed their legs at the knee. There was no spike when legs were crossed at the ankle. It is worth noting that patients showed only a temporary increase in blood pressure. However, if you already have high blood pressure, it’s likely beneficial to avoid spending long periods of time with your legs crossed, whether it is in Garudasana or sitting watching TV.
Misconceptions & Myths About Eagle Pose
Garuda means eagle
Or does it? The word garuda literally translates as “devourer”. This is because Garuda was originally identified with the “all-consuming fire of the sun’s rays.”
Who is Garuda?
Garuda is pretty badass. Garuda is the vahana, or vehicle, of Vishnu. Yup — Vishnu flies around on Garuda.
He is a powerful creature in the epic stories from India. Simply by flapping his wings, Garuda can stop the spinning of heaven, earth and hell. It is known.
He is also the principle adversary of the nagas (they are snake-like demons). He likes to swoop down and scoop them up in his talons. And then he eats them.
Outside of India you’ll still see lots of signs of Garuda as his image and name are used across Asia. The further into Southeast Asia you go, the more fierce the images of Garuda seem to become.
- You may recognise his name in the Indonesian national airline Garuda Airlines.
- When you arrive at Bali airport a large statue of Garuda greets you.
- He is a common site on temples in Indonesia.
- Garuda is commonly used in national symbolism and religious iconography across Southeast Asia and India.
- Garuda is found in the national insignia for Thailand and Indonesia.
Is Garudasana thousands of years old?
Just like yoga, Garudasana isn’t actually very old. The pose has, however, evolved during the 200+ years it has existed.
In the Rgveda (which can be dated to around 1700 BCE) there is mention of Garutman, a god with wings.
In the Mahabharata (written between 100 BCE and 100 CE) it clarifies that Garutman is the same as Garuda, who is referred to in the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajurveda (written around 1000 BCE).
The Brahama describes Garuda as the personification of courage, while the Mahabharata describes Garuda as one who is fast, who can shape-shift into any form, and who can go anywhere.
A yoga pose called Garudasana appears first in the Gheranda Samhita (written in the late 1600s). Verse 2.37 describes the pose as being done with your legs and thighs on the ground, and your hands on the knees.
A one-legged balancing pose named Garudasana (but closer to Vrksasana) is described and illustrated in the 19th century Sritattvanidhi.
The modern pose that we are talking about in this post is originally described in BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, published in 1966.
Will crossing my legs give me varicose veins?
Both standing and sitting for very long periods of time may increase your risk of developing varicose veins, but there’s no evidence that crossing your legs has this effect. So unless you have high blood pressure (see Contraindications above) get those legs wrapped and get down with your Eagle Pose.
Garudasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Stand in Tadasana.
- Bend both knees slightly, shift your weight onto your left foot, and lift your right knee up, bringing your right foot off the ground.
- Cross your right leg as high up your left leg as possible.
- If possible wrap your right foot behind your left calf/ankle. If you cannot hook your foot, skip this step for now and cross your thighs only.
- Cross your right arm under your left as close to your chest as possible.
- Move your hands towards each other. Keep them there, or if it is accessible, wrap your forearms/wrists so that you can bring your palms together.
- If your palms are together, press your palms together. If you palms are not together, push your elbows together.
- Broaden across your collar bones and move your shoulder blades down your back.
- Look forward or down at the ground. If your hands are in prayer position you can look through them to help find focus and balance.
- Stretch up tall through your spine. Draw your shoulders down your back.
- You have an option here to bend your knees more and bring your right elbow to your right knee.
- Either of these variations is Garudasana, or Eagle Pose.
- To come out, uncross your arms and legs and return to Tadasana.
- This is a two-sided pose, so don’t forget to practice it on the other side.
Modifications & Variations
If it is hard to hook your foot behind your calf
Cross your legs and, instead of trying to hook your foot behind your calf, point your foot towards the floor. If you cross your legs low enough down, you might even be able to rest your foot on a yoga block or the ground for extra help with your balance. Keep squeezing your knees towards each other.
If you have high blood pressure
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found a significant increase in blood pressure when participants crossed their legs at the knee.
There was no spike when legs were crossed at the ankle.
It is worth noting that patients showed only a temporary increase in blood pressure. However, if you already have high blood pressure, it’s likely beneficial to avoid spending long periods of time with your legs crossed, whether it is in Garudasana or sitting down during the day.
If you are having trouble balancing
Focus your gaze at a fixed point in front of you. This point is called a drishti in yoga and is useful to calm and focus your mind and body. Focus on an unmoving point in front of you or on the ground in front of you.
Another option is to practice at the wall. Touch the wall with the shoulder that’s on the same side of your body as your top leg. You can then lean into the wall as much as needed to help find your balance.
If you have vertigo or lose stability easily
Garudasana can be done sitting on a chair. You can do the legs only, or the arms only, or both together, depending on your mobility and flexibility.
If your hands won’t come together
Wrap your arms while holding a yoga strap. Then hold the strap between your hands and work to walk your hands a bit closer together and hold this new spot. Then see if you can work your hands a little closer still. Over time this will help.
If you find it hard to bend the knee of your standing leg
Yoga Poses Related to Eagle Pose
- Uttanasana / Forward Fold
- Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Down Dog Pose
- Utkatasana / Fierce or Chair Pose
- Vrksasana / Tree Pose
- Gomukhasana / Cow-face Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Bound-Angle Pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold
- Supta Virasana / Reclined Hero Pose
- Supta Baddha Konasana / Supine Bound-Angle Pose
- Upavista Konasana / Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Sirsasana with Garudasana legs / Headstand with Eagle legs
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana / Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
- Vatayanasana / Horse Pose
- Bhujapidasana / Arm Pressure Pose
- Astavakrasana / Eight-Pointed Pose
- Goraksasana / The Sage Goraksa’s Pose
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: How to do Utkatasana – Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Post: Gomukhasana Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Video: Step by Step Guide to Garudasana
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Yoloha Cork Yoga Blocks
- Yoloha Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
- Foam Yoga Wedge
A Final Note About Eagle Pose
I feel like because this pose appears so often in yoga classes that students tend to think of it as an easy pose, or a pose for newbies. But this is a post that is always going to offer you more if you practice it.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Eagle Pose. I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply and I hope this post helps you see this fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. The more you understand about each pose the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!