Tiger Pose (Vyaghrasana)

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Tiger Pose (Vyaghrasana), (vyAa-gHrAa-suh-nuh)

vyaghra (tiger) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Balancing Table Pose Variation

Pose Type: Strengthening, Balancing, Stretching

Difficulty: Beginner

a man doing tiger pose

Stretch like a graceful tiger and build your balance in Vyaghrasana.

Tiger Pose Fundamentals

Keep your spine healthy and open your heart in Tiger Pose. This pose is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a gentle way to work on your core muscles, balance skills, and flexibility. 

The pose may also serve as a part of your warm-up routine, to prepare your body for more challenging balancing and back-bending asanas.

It can be performed dynamically like Cat and Cow stretch, and you can also hold it for some time. The dynamic variation may be more suitable if you are warming up, while holding for longer may help you work more on your endurance and spinal health. 

The backbend allows you to open your chest, which may help release tension and reduce symptoms of mild depression, stress, and anxiety.

It will also strengthen the back and is a good addition to any routine focused on building a better posture and counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting. 

Energetically, this pose stimulates the Sacral Chakra, which may boost your creativity and allow you to feel pleasure in life and relationships. 

Tiger Pose History

The pose is called Vyaghrasana in Sanskrit. ‘Vyaghra’ translates to tiger, and the asana was given this name because the shape looks similar to a tiger who is stretching after waking up. 

The pose was first mentioned in a 17th-century text called Hatha Ratnavali. It was mentioned as one of the 84 poses taught by Lord Shiva.

The legend states Shiva selected the poses while observing 8 400 000 living animals, and taught the poses to humans to aid them.

Another legend speaks of a sage called Vyaghrapada who prayed for having tiger legs. After being gifted tiger legs, he performed stretching asanas, and some believe Tiger Pose was named after this story. 

Tiger Pose Benefits

  • Strengthens the back, shoulders, arms, knees, thighs, and glutes. 
  • Opens the hips and chest. 
  • Improves balance skills and helps you build your base for more challenging balancing poses. 
  • Stimulates the organs in the abdomen, boosting digestion.
  • Releases tension from the lower back, which may reduce low back tension and pain. 
  • Contracts the muscles around the spine, which stimulates the nerves in the spine. This may help you build a stronger spine and work on improving your postural habits.

How To Do Tiger Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Begin in Table Top Pose, with your knees hip-width distance apart and your wrists shoulder-width apart. 

2. Simultaneously arch your back as you would for Cow Pose, and lift your right knee up, reaching the sole of the foot up and towards your head. 

3. Keep your gaze up to follow the curve of your spine. 

4. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Release the knee on the ground, and repeat the pose on the other side.

5. Before proceeding with your practice, take a moment to rest in Child’s Pose. 

annotated image of a man doing tiger pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • If your wrists are tender, try balancing on your fists instead of keeping your palms flat. This variation is also appropriate if you want to challenge your balance more.
  • You could also try performing the exercise on your forearms if your wrists are hurting in the pose. 
  • If your knees are sensitive, place a blanket beneath them for cushioning.
  • Distribute your weight evenly through both arms and the leg that remains on the floor. 
  • Engage thigh muscles to remain stable in the pose. 
  • Make sure you find a level that feels right – don’t strain your muscles or force the movement, and only proceed to more advanced variations once you feel comfortable in the pose.

Tiger Pose Variation:

Tiger Pose Variation: One-Handed Tiger

  • a man doing one handed tiger pose
  • a man doing one handed tiger pose

Once you feel comfortable in Tiger Pose, you can challenge your balance with this variation. 

Begin From Tiger Pose, with your right leg lifted. Shift your weight to the right arm. When you’re ready, lift the left hand and move it towards the back, trying to hold the right ankle. Press the right foot into the left hand to try to lift it higher.

Hold this variation for 3 to 5 breaths, then release. Repeat the same steps on the other side. 

Tiger Pose Variation: Tiger Pose Flow

This variation is similar to the Donkey Kick exercise from Pilates, the main difference being that you are going into a back bend when lifting the leg in Tiger Pose, and in the Donkey Kick variation the back stays neutral.

The Tiger Pose Flow is a great pick if you want to work on strength in the back, core, and glutes more. 

Begin in Tiger Pose with one leg lifted and your back arched. Then move your leg and swing it under your torso. At the same time, round your back, trying to touch the knee with your forehead. Hold for a breath, and lift the leg again. Repeat for a couple of cycles, then do the same amount of repetitions on the other side. 

Tiger Pose Variation: Balancing Table Pose

a man doing balancing table pose

This variation may be suitable if you want to focus on building your balance but don’t feel comfortable holding the back bend.

Balancing Table Pose is started from Table Top, instead of Cow, meaning you will keep your back in a neutral position. 

From there, lift one leg, so it’s parallel to the floor. Keep the leg extended and flex the foot. When you’re ready, lift the opposite arm, so it’s parallel to the ground, reaching the fingers towards the front. Try to maintain balance for 3 to 5 breaths, release, and repeat on the other side. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Opening the Hip. Many beginner practitioners will open the hip to the side as it allows them to lift the leg more. However, try to keep your hips stacked to gain the most benefit from this pose, even if that means you need to lower your knee a bit. You could also strain your back muscles if you lift your leg too high. 

Incorrect base alignment.

Before you start lifting your leg, make sure your body is in good alignment. Check if your knees are directly beneath the hips, and your wrists are beneath the shoulders.

Injuries and Conditions

Avoid practicing the pose if you have an injury in the hips, back, and knees. Also avoid if you have spinal disorders, migraines, or struggle with neck, joint or back pain. 

Related Poses

Table Top Pose

Balancing Table Pose

Airplane Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Table Top Pose

Cat Pose

Cow Pose

Counter Poses:

Plank Pose

Low Lunge Pose

Camel Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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