the eagle : garudasana

attaining the far-reaching vision of the eagle in garudasana

photo by charles green

As I prepare to do the Eagle pose, Garudasana, I scan my mind for associations with eagles and come up with the obvious: piercing vision, soaring flight, wide wing span, isolated nests high up in cliffs, precision in targeting prey.

What do I actually know from my own viewings of eagles? I have seen them lining the trees along the salmon-spawning streams on Vancouver Island, swooping down to collect dying salmon for an easy meal. I have seen them scanning the lakeshore at the Ashram, and I feel a lingering suspicion that our missing Kitty was carried into the sky in those crushing talons.

I have also seen eagles in a magical light. Years ago, when my father died, an eagle suddenly appeared like a mystical messenger from another dimension, flying above the little piece of river land where our family had enjoyed Sunday picnics and swims. Another time, before a reading with an old astrologer, I walked the dry, rocky isolated land surrounding his home. Eagles were spiraling overhead like premonitions. When I went inside, the elder’s most significant words to me still resonate: “You have the power of choice in your life. It is up to you how far you go.” It is up to me how far I go. I think of the eagle flying high, whose grace comes not from its own efforts but from surrender to invisible currents.

To gather more facts about eagles, I do some research and discover just how phenomenal their vision is. Imagine acuity of sight four times as powerful as the most perfect human eye, and transparent eyelids that blink away dust while allowing continuous vision. Visualize an eagle soaring high enough to track territory within a three-square-mile radius and able to spot a rabbit running a mile away. Imagine having double focusing power that gives you the capacity to look ahead with binocular vision and depth of field, and yet also to focus sideways with monocular vision. Imagine the flexibility to rotate your head 270 degrees and to extend vivid colour perception into the subtle range of ultraviolet.

It is humbling, as human beings, to realize the limits of our own perception. Perhaps that is why, in mythology, the symbolism of birds and animals is incorporated into the gods and goddesses. For example, the mythical creature Garuda (whom this pose is named after) has the eagle’s head, wings and talons, and a human body. With its extended sight, as well as the power to soar to great heights and to strike its target with precision, Garuda is famed for its ability to destroy evil in the form of nagas, or snakes. Symbolically considered to be a destroyer of obstacles on the path of Liberation, Garuda is also the vehicle of Vishnu, the Divine power that preserves life.
Practising Garudasana is an opportunity to expand our own vision. As human beings we may not literally attain the magnificent eyesight of the eagle, but we can symbolically sharpen our knowledge, awareness and insight. Who are we, beyond the obvious? What can we see about ourselves? Learning from Garuda, can we observe the tiniest movement of negative thoughts within and take swift action to destroy them before they develop into serious obstacles? Can we become visionaries by seeing beyond the limitations of self-centredness, and observing how our actions now will influence the future?

how to do garudasana: the eagle pose

1 Stand and extend the arms parallel to the floor, placing the left over the right and bending at the elbows.

2    Twist the forearms around each other, bringing the two palms together (or moving in that direction) with fingers pointing up.

3    Bend both knees. Cross the right leg over the left, tucking the toes around the right ankle (or if this is not possible, keep the foot loose).

4    Balance in the pose, focusing ahead while also being aware of peripheral vision.

5    An option is to bend forward, lowering the elbows to the thigh, folding the hands and peering down to look over the world below.

6    To come out of the pose, untwist the limbs, straighten the legs, and stretch the arms up and out to the sides like wings. Then repeat the process to the other side.

1    While in Garudasana, you can deepen inward vision and see through yourself by asking questions such as: Can I see through my traps? Can I avoid getting caught in them?

2    Ask: What would it mean to soar like an eagle, effortlessly, surrendering to the currents of the air?

3    Reflect on Garuda and create your own myth, representing the truth in your life right now.

Swami Lalitananda's latest book,The Inner Life of Asanas,is a collection of her hidden language hatha yoga columns, from timeless books . She is a resident teacher and part of the collective at radha yoga & eatery - a yoga centre, cafe, arts and events venue at 728 Main Street in Vancouver, BC. Contact her at .

   read more of swami lalitananda's past columns

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