Bird of Paradise is a challenging posture, but one that can be accomplished by the seasoned Yoga practitioner with some patience and time. The most important thing to remember is that you must be very warm to attempt this pose and that it is a good idea get the transitional steps strongly before moving on.
Begin by practicing five rounds of Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar A) and three rounds of Sun Salutation B (Surya Namaskar B) to get the body warm and the mind focused. Then, hold Triangle Pose, Side Angle Pose and Standing Big Toe Hold on each side for seven breaths each. In your Triangle and Side Angle poses, begin to take a half-bind by wrapping your top arm around your back and try to hook you fingers around the inside of your front thigh. It is important to get the spine, hips, hamstrings and shoulders open before going into any version of Bird of Paradise Pose.
When you feel loose and warm from deep inside the body, return to Side Angle Pose, or Parsvakonasana, with your right leg in front and bent and your left leg in back and straight. Turn the right toes out and left toes in and begin to wrap your left arm behind your back and, at the same time, take your right arm in front of your right leg and under it to bind the right hand with the left. This is what we refer to as a full-bind.
Full-bind in Side Angle Pose is your starting point for getting into Bird of Paradise. With the right leg in the front and the arms bound around the right leg, look down at your right big toe and begin to step your left foot up to meet your right. You may be able to do this in one big step or it may take several steps to get there. Just getting to this point in your practice for a while is great preparation. Never be in a hurry to achieve poses in your Yoga practice. We are working toward cultivating patience and acceptance of ourselves more than anything else.
When you feel ready to take the next step, begin placing all of your weight on your left foot, find a strong focal point (drishti) and use your abdominal muscles and arms to slowly lift the right foot off of the floor. The first few times you may just get the foot a few inches off of the floor and then put it back down again. Eventually, you will come all the way up to standing with your right leg wrapped and held up by your arms.
When you get there, lengthen your spine and bring your crown to the sky with the right leg still bent. When you feel long and tall, you can begin to straighten the right leg, but if the right leg is not ready yet, just stay in the balance with the leg bent. Hold the posture for five to seven long breaths in and out through the nose.
Come back in the reverse way that you came up to bring yourself out of the pose. Still in the bind, bring your right foot down to meet your left foot, step your left foot to the back of the mat in Side Angle Pose and release the bind of the hands. Repeat this pose on the other side for a balanced body.