As we move into the part of our series where we work on strengthening the erector spinae, I’m sort of troubled by and stuck on names. In all yoga classes where I’ve seen this vinyasa mentioned, it’s been called either sunbird pose or tiger pose. However, in many core strengthening videos I’ve seen, it’s been called bird dog (which, as a former owner of hunting dogs, makes a lot of sense to me, based on how the pose looks). Given that videos with the clearest and most complete explanations are the core work ones, “bird dog” will come up there a lot. I hear it most often as sunbird in my local yoga classes, so that’s likely the name I’ll default to using here.
Just to make life a little more confusing.
Anyway, the core effort in sunbird (see, I am doing it already!) is to keep the low back in a neutral position, which for most people involves a small lumbar curve, while the limbs are extending. In order to do that, the spinal extensors have to work against gravity to keep the lumbar spine from overarching. Gravity is a cruel physics mistress, and fighting against it can be seriously tough.
Bonus feature: Since this asana involves stabilizing the spine while moving the limbs, the transverse abs are at work here too.
Second bonus: A sunbird vinyasa that also involves rounding the spine brings in the rectus abdominus as well.
There’s also a sunbird variation using a chair for support. I’m way tempted to start this up in my next boring all day training when my hip flexors start seizing up on me.
Additionally, for folks looking to up the physical intensity of the pose, I sometimes like to try lifting the same-side arm and leg. I mean, I fall a lot, but I sometimes like to try. I feel like it’s okay because: a) falling is a part of learning and a part of life; b) I hit the ground ass and boob first, which is sort of cushion-y.