Bird of Paradise is fun because it combines strength, balance and flexibility. Because it touches on so many things, it will be different every time you try the pose. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Some days I can’t get my leg straight. Other days I can’t, for the life of me, find my balance.
Starting in Tadasana, bring feet slightly wider than hips distance apart. Choose a leg. Thread the corresponding arm between the legs and wrap your hand around your inner thigh. Flip the opposite arm behind your back, extending your arms to bind the hands. The opposite foot stays rooted into the earth while lifting the leg that is bound with a bent knee. Find balance standing upright with the base leg firmly straightened before extending the other leg up towards the sky. Your ribcage should be lifted and the heart will be open in the full expression of the pose. With your gaze forward work on straightening legs, lifting chest up a little bit at a time.
The benefits of the posture are many. It increases flexibility in your spine and back as well as the hip and knee joints. The posture strengthens the legs, improves balance and opens the hips. Stretches the hamstrings and shoulders and just looks cool.
I spent a long time working on standing on a straight leg, keeping the other knee bent cradled in the crook of my elbow and just staring at a single point – working on my balance. Give it a shot – it’s a fun pose and your shoulder will thank you!