Peacock pose, known as mayurasana in Sanskrit, is a powerful arm balance that builds muscle in the arms, core, and legs. Requiring both arm strength and intense concentration to pull off, the pose is a challenging balance with a long list of benefits including, especially, strong arms and a toned stomach.
Peacock pose stimulates circulation to the arms and wrists, massages the abdominal organs for better digestion, and improves the body’s motor coordination. Traditionally, yogis credit the pose with stimulating metabolic processes. The yogi Swami Satyananda Saraswati, for example, claims that the pose with balancing the endocrine system and clearing skin.
Continue reading to understand the benefits of the pose and a full step-by-step!
Peacock pose is a powerful posture that strengthens muscles all over the body – from the forearm flexors to the hamstrings. The pose is difficult to take and difficult to hold, especially without holding your breath. The strength benefits alone are, however, proportional to the pose’s difficulty. The key to peacock (and it’s greatest muscular benefit) lies in the abdominal muscles, which do the heavy lifting.
Peacock pose increases the circulation of blood throughout the body, though especially to the hands and arms. Swami Satyananda Saraswati connects this effect to the cleansing of blood toxins. He claims that peacock pose increases the level of toxins in the blood as part of the cleansing process and, therefore, should not be performed before other inversions.
Do not attempt peacock pose if you:
- are pregnant.
- are on your period.
- have high blood pressure.
- have a heart condition.
- have a hernia.
- have a peptic or duodenal ulcer.
Because the pose increases circulation, consider practicing peacock pose toward the end of your practice to avoid dizziness in other poses, especially inversions. Peacock pose can also tire the arm and abdominal muscles, so putting peacock pose at the end also prevents burnout early in the practice.
- Begin kneeling on the mat in thunderbolt pose (vajrasana).
- Widen your knees a foot or two apart to come into gracious pose (bhadrasana).
- Turn your palms upward and then plant them on the mat a few inches apart between your knees, fingers facing toward your body. If your wrists are less flexible, keep your hands turned slightly outward. If your wrists are more flexible, point your fingers directly toward your feet.
- Slide your knees in to hug your hands. Lift your buttocks off your heels. Bend your elbows forward at 90° angles. Bring your elbows over your wrists. Plant them on the mat just outside of your thumbs.
- Lean forward. Rest your abdomen on your elbows. Nestle your elbows into your stomach right above your hipbones. Rest the sides of your chest on your upper arms.
- Inhale. Straighten your legs and step them back, so that the lower half of your body is in plank pose. Bring your knees and feet together. Untuck your toes and drop the tops of your feet to the mat. Engage the muscles of your buttocks and round your shoulders slightly toward the mat.
- Rest your gaze on a point at the front of your mat.
- Exhale. With control, shift your weight forward onto your arms. This shift should lift your feet off the mat so that you balance on your arms. Shift your weight forward until your abdomen and legs hover perpendicular to the mat.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Exhale. Shift your weight back and lower your legs to the mat. Step your feet forward, drop your knees to the mat outside your palms, untuck your toes, and return to a seated posture. Release your palms from the mat.
Modifications and Props
Lift one leg at a time. If you don’t have the arm strength to support the weight of your entire body, lift one leg at a time in step eight (above) to gradually build arm strength and balance for the full posture.
Curl your fingers to support weak wrists. You should never feel sharp pain in your wrists in yoga. If the pose puts pressure onto the wrist joint, curl your fingers under slightly for a tighter grip on the mat. If you still feel pain, come out of the pose.
Bind your elbows together. If your elbows drift apart, use a strap or a belt to bind them together, or a few inches apart, in step four (above).
Support your forehead with a block. If you have trouble lifting your legs, planting your hands on blocks in step three (above) will let you shift your weight forward more dramatically in step eight, making it easier to lift the lower half of your body.
Elevate your arms with blocks. If you have trouble lifting your legs, planting your hands on blocks in step three (above) will let you shift your weight forward more dramatically in step eight, making it easier to lift the lower half of your body.
Blanket crash pad. If you elevate your arms with blocks or are unsteady in peacock pose at all, place a folded blanket on the mat in front of you as you practice the pose. The blanket will protect your head if you lose balance and fall forward in the pose.
Feathered Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayurasana). This inversion variation of peacock pose, also known as forearm stand, is really more similar to scorpion pose (vrischikasana) than to peacock pose. Begin in dolphin pose, with your fingertips touching a wall in front you you. Rotate your upper arms inward to widen your upper back. Step your left foot toward the wall. Kick off your right leg to bring your feet into the air. Rest your heels against the wall. Look toward the wall. Breath and hold the pose. Lower down carefully, right leg first. Advanced practitioners can attempt feathered peacock pose without the wall.
Half Feathered Peacock Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana). This peacock pose variation prepares the practitioner for feathered peacock pose, though it also strengthens the abdominal muscles for peacock pose. Begin in staff pose (dandasana) with your toes touching a wall in front of you. Note how far your hips are from the wall. Turn around and plant your forearms on the mat, your elbows where your hips were. Step back into dolphin plank. Slowly step your left, then your right, foot up the wall behind you. Breath and hold the pose. Step back into plank.
Lotus Peacock Pose (Padma Mayurasana). This difficult variation combines lotus pose (padmasana) and peacock pose. Begin seated in lotus pose. Turn your palms upward and plant your palms on the mat in front of you as in step three (above). Keeping your legs folded in padmasana, move through steps four through eleven.
Triceps. The triceps brachii is a large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the elbow joint. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk, as do arm balances like peacock pose.
Forearm flexors. The flexor muscles are located in the superficial anterior of the forearm. They control flexion and rotation of the wrist. Exercises that resist flexion, like wrist curls, strengthen these muscles. Peacock pose strengthens the forearm flexors while it stretches the forearm extensors for more flexible wrists.
Deltoids. The deltoid muscles form the rounded contour of the outer shoulders. They prevent dislocation of the arm during heavy lifting. Peacock pose strengthens the deltoid muscles, since the shoulders also hold weight in the arm balance.
Pecs. The pectoralis major and minor connect the front walls of the chest with the upper arms and shoulders. These muscles draw the arms towards the body. Shoulder stand strengthens the pectoral muscles, which engage to keep the elbows close.
Abs. The abdominal muscles are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. In peacock pose, the abs do the heavy lifting. The key to the pose is in the stomach muscles.
Glutes. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. To tone the glutes in peacock pose, avoid clenching the gluteus maximus. The glutes should be firm in the pose, but not hard.
Hip adductors. The adductor muscles are located in the inner thighs. These muscles are responsible for leg movement away from the center of the body as, for example, during a star jump or split. In peacock pose, drawing the knees towards each other, as your body naturally works to bring them apart, strengthens the adductor longus and pectineus.
Quads. The quadricep muscles cover the front and sides of the femur, making up much of the muscle mass of the thighs. The quads stabilize and allow extension of the knee joint. Lifting the legs strengthens the quads in peacock pose.
Hamstrings. The three hamstring muscles – the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris – run along the back of the thigh. They extend the hip, flex the knee, and rotate the lower leg. Lifting the legs strengthens the hamstrings in peacock pose.
If you want to learn a new move, check out the plow pose for beginners.