As the days grow shorter and the holiday season looms on the horizon, I find my body tends to tense up. One of the best yoga postures for stress relief is Eagle Pose. It opens up your shoulders, releases neck tension, strengthens your quads, and engages your core. It's an all-over body toner and stress reducer. And since it can be practiced in stages, it's an ideal posture for yogis of every level.
New yogis—or even those just wanting some all-natural tension tamers—should focus on the "wings," or upper body element, of Eagle Pose. Begin standing up, with your right arm in front of you making an “L” shape. Then wrap your left arm under and in front of your right, and bring your palms together in a prayer position. Lift your arms up and away from your face to ensure the proper alignment of the pose. This simple part of Eagle Pose can be practiced several times a day, and you can do it anywhere—on an airplane, in line at the coffee shop, and even stopped at a red light.
Once you have achieved that stage of Eagle, you're ready to add the leg component to this pose. Maintain the stretch in your upper body as you bring your feet together and sit back and down, like you're hovering above the seat of a chair. Dont take your thighs any lower than parallel to the floor. Make sure you sit both back and down, as if there were an actual chair behind you. Pull your belly in and up, and draw your tailbone down.
This is all plenty of work on its own. But if you'd like to incorporate the balance aspect of this pose, wrap your left leg over your right. Then curl your left foot's toes around the ankle or shin of your right leg. Hold whatever version of the posture you like for 5–15 breaths. Release and repeat on the other side.