Yoga Pose Primer: Dekasana (Airplane Pose)

By: 
Charlotte Bell

Right off, I’ll say that the chances that Dekasana (Airplane Pose) is one of yoga’s ancient staple poses are slim. Unless an ancient yogi sage predicted the invention of airplanes thousands of years ago, this pose, or at least its name, has to have arrived recently.

That’s no problem, however, as many of yoga’s most popular asanas actually derive from British gymnastics. When the British occupied India, they introduced many of the more acrobatic asanas to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika’s  small collection of traditional poses. While not traditional in the strictest sense, the more modern additions to the yoga pose canon—such as backbends and standing poses—confer benefits that can help us balance modern maladies, such as those accrued from all-day sitting.

Dekasana is a variation of Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose). Like Virabhadrasana III, practicing Dekasana challenges and improves balance and strengthens the legs, low back, and abdomen.

It’s the arm position that separates Airplane Pose from Warrior III. In Virabhadrasana III the arms extend outward, alongside the ears. In Dekasana, the arms extend out to the sides. Most people find the Dekasana arm position to be much easier, and to create a lot less strain on the shoulders and neck.

How To Practice Dekasana                    

  1. While the traditional way to enter Dekasana (or Virabhadrasana III) is to transition from Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose), I prefer to start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).  

  2. Stand in Tadasana, feet hip-width apart, on a nonskid yoga mat.

  3. Take a moment to feel your feet on the floor. Is there more weight on the insides or outsides, the balls of the feet or the heels?

  4. Place your hands on your hips.

  5. With awareness in the feet, shift your weight onto your right leg.

  6. With your left knee straight, lift it up behind you, causing your torso to bend forward over the right leg.

  7. Extend your arms out to the sides, either straight out from your shoulders, or at a 45-degree angle to your torso.

  8. Lift your left leg and shoulders up toward the sky. Take care not to lift your head. Instead, lengthen the back of your neck so that you are looking at the ground.

  9. Stay for five or more deep breaths.

  10. Simultaneously lift your torso up and lower your left leg.

  11. To release the pose, mindfully raise your body to upright as you lower your left foot to the floor.

  12. Stand in Tadasana, checking in with your legs. They played very different roles in Dekasana. How do they feel different?

  13. Repeat on the other side.

  14. If your balance is shaky, you can practice standing next to a wall. Stand beside the wall so that you can let your side body or one of your hands touch if need be.

Reprinted with permission from Hugger Mugger Yoga Products’ blog.

Would you like to read another Yoga Pose Primer from special contributor, Charlotte Bell?  Read Refining Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) - New Alignment Tips for an Old Stand-By.

More on Yoga and Balance?  Study with YogaUOnline and Baxter Bell MD - Yoga for Core Integrity and Balance.

 

Charlotte Bell.2Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products¹ blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.