If you’re an official member of the backache club, then you know all about the muscle cramps that crop up mid-day, especially if you sit a lot for work. While there are loads of stretches that help with back and shoulder pain, the eagle arm yoga pose is one of the very best.
Eagle arm pose, or Garudasana, is the arm portion of the classic eagle pose, says Susan Hu, RYT-500 and YACEP-certified yoga and meditation teacher. This arm stretch involves wrapping one bent arm over the other while slightly lifting your hands up to create a nice, expansive stretch across the top of your back.
“Eagle arms are a great way to open up the shoulders and can help ease back pain,” Hu tells Bustle. “It works on otherwise hard-to-reach areas and targets the traps, deltoids, rhomboids, and lats, which are rarely stretched in other yoga poses or workouts.” Hold this move for a few breaths on a regular basis, and it should keep back pain away.
The eagle arm pose is also a great one to add to your routine for better posture, Hu says. Strengthening and lengthening the upper back and shoulder muscles will help release built-up tension that might lead to rounded shoulders. And in turn, that will make it easier to sit up straight.
Try the eagle arm pose when you wake up, before bed, mid-day — or whenever you need a quick break. Here’s how to do it.
How To Do Eagle Arm Pose
Feel an upper back cramp coming on? Here, Hu explains how to do the eagle arm pose with good form, so you can nip it in the bud.
- Reach both arms out in front of you.
- Swing one arm under the other and cross at the elbow.
- Once your arms are wrapped, bend your elbows.
- Intertwine your upper arms and try to touch your palms together.
- Depending on the flexibility of your shoulders, try to raise your elbows up to shoulder height.
- Hold here for three to five breaths.
- Release your arms.
- Reverse the arm wrap with the opposite arm on top and repeat.
How To Modify Eagle Arm Pose
According to Whitney Berger, a certified yoga instructor and owner of WhitFit NYC, eagle arms can be done while you’re sitting or standing — so go with whichever one feels right to you. As you stretch, envision the crown of your head reaching up towards the sky and your tailbone sinking down towards the ground, as a way to lengthen your spine.
To make the pose more accessible, Hu recommends modifying your arms by stacking your elbows one on top of the other and wrapping your arms around your shoulders, kind of like a big hug. Another option is to simply touch the back of the hands together instead of trying to touch palms.
For a challenge, try lifting your elbows further away from your body by reaching your forearms up, Hu says. You might also add the leg portion of the eagle pose by standing on one foot and wrapping your legs. This will add a tricky balance element into the mix, and it’ll also light up your core.
Common Eagle Arm Pose Mistakes
The most common mistake people make when doing eagle arms is overstretching, Hu says, so resist the urge to overdo it. “If you notice you are holding your breath, back out of the pose,” she says. “If you notice pain in the upper back or the arms, ease out of it.” Flexibility takes time to build, so it’s best to go slow and keep things simple to start. The goal is to gently release muscle tension, not add to it.
Once you get into the pose, check your alignment to make sure both sides of your body are even. “Keeping a straight back is very important, too,” Berger tells Bustle. That’ll ensure you get the most out of this move — and your back will thank you.
Susan Hu, RYT-500, YACEP-certified yoga and meditation teacher