Mayurasana or Peacock Pose is a majestic and often imposing posture that combines core strength and wrist flexibility for an arm balance that suits the regality of its namesake. Building up to Mayurasana requires centralizing the core and deeply stretching the wrists.
This pose is best practiced after three to five cycles of Surya Namaskar A, followed by three to five cycles of Surya Namaskar B. After a few weeks of adding the preparatory poses into your practice, challenge yourself to go through the flow that builds up to Peacock pose with a strap,and eventually practicing without it.
After each practice, try incorporating the two cool down poses to help unwind. Have fun and be kind to yourself along the way!
1. Zipping it All in to Engage the Core
Think about a time you zipped up a jacket...you probably looked down and unconsciously tucked your pelvis under so the zipper would be easier to close. Anatomically, you posteriorly tucked your pelvis, flattened your spine, and reached those front floating ribs a little closer.
All of these actions combined to make your core a little smaller so zipping up the jacket was easier. Without realizing it, you managed to engage your core.
Practice in Vajrasana, first overarch your back to help the engagement feel more pronounced. Then simultaneously tuck the tailbone, release shoulders down the spine away from the ears, collarbones open, pubic bone and collarbones reaching together, and floating ribs 11 and 12 reaching together—these centralize activities to your core.
Practice sitting like this for three to five minutes everyday and you will notice a difference in your waistline and spine health. This is a simple yet effective way to work on the core for Mayurasana.
2. Cow Tilt/Cat Stretch with Rotated Wrists
To make traditional Cat-Cow more specific to building up to Mayurasana, the hands should be consistent with their placement in Mayurasana: palms pressed down, pinkies touching, and fingertips facing toward the knees.
While you are increasing your wrist flexibility, you may need to have your arms further apart. So start shoulder-distance and in time work the hands closer together. In Cow Tilt, the goal is to spread the collarbones open as wide as possible, as if your heart is smiling forward.
In Cat Stretch, the pinkies of the fingers will eventually be touching, bringing your arms closer together.
This means you will need to create space between your arms, big enough to fit the head, by bending one or both elbows. Then, straighten the arm after the head has cleared. Remember to press down through the palms and the shins to get the most range of motion in the back, it is all connected.
3. Plank Pose with Rotated Wrists
Same hand position prep for Mayurasana, fingertips toward the back of the mat with the pinkies touching. Holding this pose for as long as is comfortable in the first few weeks of practice will help strengthen the arms and core, as well as work on wrist mobility.
In the beginning, working toward full Plank may feel impossible. Start by straightening one leg at a time and keep the other knee and shin on the mat. Focus on quality of the movement versus quantity of time holding Plank.
4. Down Dog with Rotated Wrists
This is one of the hardest wrist stretches, but it’s great for mobility and overall strength. Like in Cat Stretch, since arms are super glued together starting at the pinkies, one or both elbows will need to bend to make space for the head to clear so the arms can straighten back.
Focus here on the lower back and make sure to practice zipping up of the core. If you have tightness in your body, your back will want to sway and arch into a Cow tilt. Try to avoid this compression of the lumbar spine by bending the knees to help create more space to lengthen both sides of the body.
Building Up to Peacock Pose with a Strap
One of my favorite and beginner-friendly ways to practice Mayurasana is using a strap and entering through an inverted V-shape. After step 1, the following flow can be done with or without a strap.
Step 1: Check your strap is about the length of your torso, in time you will be able to shorten this distance.
Step 2: Align the strap just above the elbows and rotate the wrists back. In this beginner-friendly variation, the wrists will be just an inch or two closer than shoulder distance and the pinkies will not touch. In time, the pinkies will work closer and the forearms will be pressed together.
Step 3: Reach the chest forward, lower the head to the mat, and lengthen the legs. From the photo above, notice the arms are at a 90-degree angle.
Step 4: Round the spine like in Cat Stretch, so the upper body is center more forward over the wrists. This is setting up to help the elbows find their balance at the solar plexus rather than at the hips.
Step 5: This is the trickiest step. You rounded your spine for a reason, that reason was to slowly lower the solar plexus towards the elbows. If you do not move intentionally, you will walk your feet too far back and the elbows will meet the ribs, which is extremely painful and not helpful for your balance.
When you walk your feet back, make sure the chest is still reaching forward and most of your weight is comfortably resting on your elbows.
Step 6: Press through the toes to lift the feet together (squeezing the legs together helps your balance and concentration) and reach the head and chest forward to find balance in Mayurasana.
Because this arm balance is a type one lever with the arms acting as the fulcrum, the higher your legs, the easier the pose. For more of a challenge, try to find your body as parallel to the ground as possible. Congratulations, you built up to Mayurasana!
After intensely stretching the extensors of the wrist and forearm, it can be nice to unwind with the soles of the feet gently massaging the hands in a flexed position. Padahastasana offers a nice change as a counter stretch. The spine can be lifted for length or the upper body can fold forward to meet the legs.
Balasana or Child’s Pose
Relaxing gently in Balasana with the palms up by the feet is a wonderful way to release any tension created in the arms during practice. This pose is also a great way to gently massage and open the internal organs that may have been pressed during flight.
Given their massive tails, it is astonishing that peacocks can fly, albeit not far but they can still fly. It is inspiration for Mayurasana, because our legs may be heavy but that does not stop us from flying for even a few seconds. This is just one way to build up into Mayurasana, the options are endless. Happy Flying!
Image credit: Cetin Cetintas