“This is my new critter guide who likes to drink from the hibiscus next to my porch. Ornithologists- anyone know what this bird is?”, I posted to my WhatsApp group whilst doing my Yoga Teacher Training in Southern India.
“That’s Dave”, replied my husband. And more helpfully, “A purple-rumped sunbird” from my friend.
A few months later I was teaching a student on the beach and was guiding her through these instructions: “from all fours, firmly push into your hands, engage your core and lift your right leg in line with your hips. Keeping the hips square to the mat and the core engaged, lift your left hand in line with your shoulder. Focus your gaze on the top of your mat and most importantly of all- keep breathing.”
While she was trying to keep her focus on all of the above I told her how I used to call this pose ‘Superman’ but I had since found out it is actually called ‘Sunbird’, which made me like it even more.
‘That would be the perfect name for you”, she replied, (with her core engaged and hips level).
And here I am, Sunbird Yoga. Turns out ‘Dave’ really was my guide after all.
Chakravakasana (Sunbird pose)
This posture helps to increase balance and strengthen the abdominals, back, wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders.
It stimulates the Manipura (solar plexus) chakra.
The movement of this posture brings your focus from the centre of the body to the periphery and back, and is a bilateral exercise, which requires the left arm and the right leg (and the reverse) to work in unison. This can help cultivate balance between focused attention and relaxed awareness.
In addition to its physical benefits, chakravakasana improves memory and focus and relieves fatigue, stress and tension.
- From table top, firmly push into your hands, engage your core and on an inhale lift your right leg.
- Keep the hips level, spine straight and energetically push the right foot away with the foot flexed.
- With the core still engaged, press the right hand firmly into the mat and on your next inhale lift your left hand with the thumb pointing upward.
- Imagine you are being pulled in opposite directions by your finger tips and your foot- feeling length in the spine and sides of the body.
- Gaze is level with the top of your mat.
- Exhale to lower the arm and leg and repeat the movement on the other side.
To incorporate this posture into your own practice, try repeating it 6 times, (alternating opposite arms and legs), raising the leg and arm on an inhale, and exhaling the arm and leg back to table top. Stay for 3 breaths in the pose on the last 2 rounds.
If you have sensitive wrists, you can make a fist (with the thumb outside) and balance on the part of the fist between the knuckle and first finger joint. Just be mindful to keep your shoulders away from your ears as it is easier to hunch them up in this position.
If you have discomfort in your knees, you can fold over your mat or use a blanket/towel for extra padding.
It is best to skip this posture if you have any knee injuries.
Balasana (Child’s pose), is a nice counter pose to take after practicing Chakravakasana. Taking the knees as wide as the mat with the big toes together, start to lower your hips towards your heels. Keep the arms stretched out long in front and bring your forehead to rest on the mat. Take deep breaths into the belly to release any tension in the abdominal muscles and relax the jaw and shoulders.
This is my favourite version of child’s pose but there are lots of variations (knees together, hips high, arms by the sides…) Take time to explore which version feels most restorative for you.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog post as Sunbird Yoga and I hope you enjoy practicing the sunbird pose.