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 yoga’s existing collection of poses. While not traditional in the strictest sense, these poses—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
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).
- Stand in Tadasana, feet hips-width apart, on a nonskid yoga mat.
- 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?
- Place your hands on your hips.
- With awareness in the feet, shift your weight onto your right leg.
- Lift your left leg up behind you, causing your torso to bend forward over the right leg.
- Extend your arms out to the sides, either straight out from your shoulders, or at a 45-degree angle to your torso.
- Lift your left leg and shoulders up toward the sky. Take care not to lift your head too much. Instead, lengthen the back of your neck so that you are looking at the ground.
- Stay for 5 or more deep breaths.
- Simultaneously lift your torso up and lower your left leg.
- Stand in Tadasana, checking in with your legs. They played very different roles in Dekasana. How do they feel different?
- Repeat on the other side.
- 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.
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