My own empty nest
So later this week we will drop my daughter, my youngest, off at college and bring my son, who took a gap year after a freshman year in college, to a new school. The flying, empty nest talk is all around me. The excitement I feel about these new beginnings feels like whiplash when moments later I feel under a tidal wave of sadness. Then the excitement returns. I have never been more grateful to have the practice of yoga and mindfulness in my life.
One of the things about a practice is that it is a tool. A dear friend today assured me that she was available and we could plan lots of stuff to make sure I was busy during this transition so it “won’t be so bad.” It makes total sense to fill the time I was with my children so I won’t miss them so much. However, it’s a bit like eagle pose. What you think might makes sense…does not. I know that doing too much as a distraction will just make me tired. I know that staying steady, taking it easy on myself, stopping when I feel the rush of missing them, will be the best way to ride this one through. And working on eagle pose.
Not the shape you might expect
If you were going to practice flying… you’d most likely spread your wings and give a jump start to getting off the ground. Yet in eagle pose, the body does quite the opposite. You twist arms and legs, pull everything in toward your spine and get really balanced and grounded on the one standing leg. How could this possibly look or feel like an eagle?
Eagle pose is about building strength, balance and flexibility, the yoga trifecta. Flying may look easy and graceful when you see a bird take off, especially a magnificent bird like an eagle though there are many simultaneous things that need to happen all at once.
Three features of eagle pose
In eagle pose, first, there is a fantastic arm and shoulder stretch. You can do this portion of the pose at your desk at any time during the day, seated or standing. (It looks complicated but watch the video below and follow Adriene to get the details.) What I like about this arm configuration also is that we begin to feel those muscles that wrap around the shoulder blades. This area becomes weak from hunching forward. With eagle arms, you begin to wake up and reinvigorate this upper back area. It can be interesting to notice any different sensations from one side to the other.
The second consideration is the issue of balance as you lift one leg and wrap the other leg around. Looks easy, but take it slowly and be patient and work wherever you are. You can always keep one toe down on the mat for stability. With wrapped legs, you can practice ankle stability and also the sensation of grounding through the four corners of the standing leg to build feet strength.
The last consideration about eagle is this big squeeze of everything in towards the spine. It feels to me like I am pulling and condensing all of my energy so that when I do go to lift off when it is time to fly, I’ll have everything I need.
If you are a student, preparing to fly in the next few weeks, or a parent standing at the edge of your own now empty nest, eagle pose is for everyone. It takes great energy to fly and even more energy to say goodbye. Sending best wishes for the exciting adventure ahead for all of us.
ps. This pose is also nice to do on your back where you can get into the twist a little easier because there is no balancing to do. Try it!