Inverted yoga poses are an important part of a yoga sequence. From traditional yoga classes to…
Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they resemble, such as trees, mountains, etc. Tiger Pose is often practiced in vinyasa yoga classes but not many people know the story behind this classic yogasana.
Many modern postural yoga classes tend to put a lot of focus on fancy yoga poses that take months, maybe even years, to develop the proper strength, balance, and flexibility. But Tiger Pose will teach you that a pose or yoga vinyasa sequence does not have to be complicated or advanced in order for it to be effective.
In this guide, we’ll explain the benefits of Tiger Pose and how best to integrate it into your practice.
The History of Tiger Pose
The Sanskrit name of this pose is Vyaghrasana, which literally means Tiger Pose.
Tiger Pose is one of the 84 original Hatha yoga poses that, according to many ancient texts, were handed down by Lord Shiva and include the 17th century Haṭha Ratnāvalī by Srinivasa. Interestingly enough, the asana was listed but not actually described in this particular text.
The Bengal Tiger is the national animal of India today. Throughout the mythology of Asia, tigers have been depicted as important and powerful animals. This is very much the case all over the Indian subcontinent.
One of the most famous depictions of a tiger is as the vehicle of the goddess Durga, consort of Shiva in the Hindu pantheon. Together, they symbolize the powerful union of the divine feminine and Mother Earth working together to fearlessly fend off evil.
In many parts of India, the tiger itself is worshipped as a god; it is a protector, a guardian, or even an ancestor spirit of some tribes. The belief that tigers have the power to unite humans with nature and cosmic forces in the universe is a common theme.
The movements done in Tiger Pose mimic the ones a tiger makes when it wakes up. This pose helps you warm up your spine, especially when used as a follow up vinyasa after a few sets of Cat-Cows.
You can practice Vyaghrasana either as a static pose or as part of a flow. Each transition is synchronized with the breath and some parts of the pose may even be held for a few breaths before repeating the cycle. The pose is usually complemented by Cat Pose (Bidalasana, or sometimes called Marjaryasana) and Cow Pose (Bitilasana) in a simple vinyasa flow that any beginner can practice and any yoga practitioner can use in order to slowly warm up their spine.
How to Warm up For Tiger Pose with Cat-Cows
- Start from a tabletop position. Place your knees directly under your hips and your wrists directly under your shoulders. Inhale, lengthen your spine and prepare yourself to begin the vinyasa sequence.
- On your next exhale, transition into Cat Pose. As you slowly release air from your lungs, relax your neck and suck your navel towards your spine as you arch your spine up towards the sky.
- As you inhale, transition into Cow Pose. Tilt your tailbone up towards the ceiling and relax your belly so your spine is in a backbend. Shift your gaze upwards.
- Practice a few repetitions of these Cat-Cows and add Tiger Pose when your spine and hips feel loose and warmed up.
How to Do Yoga Tiger Pose Step-by-Step
- Start from a tabletop position on your mat.
- Inhale and extend your right leg towards the back. At the same time, raise your left arm and reach your fingers towards the front.
- Exhale and tilt your pelvis inwards. Create a rainbow arc shape with your spine and imagine your navel reaching up towards the sky. Bend the knee of your extended leg and bring it in towards your chest. At the same time bend the elbow of your extended arm and also bring it in underneath your body so that your knee and elbow touch.
- On an inhale, relax your belly so your spine arches the other way. Expand your chest. Donkey kick your leg up and back and point your toes towards the ceiling. Level your hips.
- Reach your arm overhead. You may either continue reaching up or decide to hold your foot or leg. If you hold your foot, kick back with your foot into your hand.
In the Cat-Cow-Tiger flow, do a set of the Tiger Pose vinyasa sequence after Cow Pose by bringing your knee to your chest in Cat Pose, then kicking your leg up towards the ceiling in Cow Pose and grabbing a hold of your foot with your opposite hand. When you finish one set, do another set of Cat-Cows on your following breaths.
Repeat all of the above steps with your opposite leg and arm.
Benefits and Contraindications of Tiger Pose
Vyaghrasana is an energy booster. It also helps boost your kidney function and ignite your adrenals to help detoxify your body by ridding it of the stress that accumulates as a result of modern day life.
It is a dynamic pose, which means that it helps develop coordination, body and spatial awareness, as well as overall mobility.
The first part of the pose involves contracting your core muscles and bringing your knee and elbow to touch underneath your chest. This will help strengthen your abdominals and increase the flexibility and mobility of your spine and hips.
When you inhale in Tiger Pose, you simultaneously create a backbend in your spine and expand your chest. This movement will help increase your lung capacity while relieving your abs from the contractions they made in the previous movement. Like all muscles in your body, your abdominals also need to be stretched after you strengthen them. Tiger Pose will help you increase your mind-body coordination through balance and awareness.
Tiger Pose is a classical asana that some believe was taught to humankind by Shiva, the god who personifies pure consciousness. When you regularly practice this pose, you allow yourself to embody the qualities of a tiger – a revered animal since ancient times.
Although it is considered a simple asana, Vyaghrasana will target your entire body to make you more powerful and supple, while at the same time helping you relieve any existing tension you may have in your body.