The story of Garudasana as told in Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij starts when Garuda was born from a huge egg. He appeared as radiant as a million suns. With the head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle and the body and limbs of a man, Garuda was an imposing figure. The gods asked him to reduce his size as his power scared them. He did as they asked.
Garuda’s mother, Vinata, lost a bet with the snakes and was held captive by them in an underground serpent city called Patala. The serpents said they would not release her unless Garuda brought a cup of amrita (nectar that makes one immortal) from its place atop a celestial mountain. To get to it, one must pass through three deadly obstacles.
The first obstacle was a ring of fire. Garuda was easily able to pass through the ring by gulping the water from a few rivers to extinguish the fire. The second obstacle was a circular door with a spiked metal ring that spun in its frame. Garuda used his mystical powers and became very small so he was able to pass through without any problem at all. The last obstacle was two venomous serpents. Garuda flapped his wings wildly, blinding the two snakes. He then killed them with his powerful beak.
Garuda delivered the nectar to the serpents holding his mother. Just as they were about to drink it, the chief demigod Indra showed up with some other gods to reclaim the stolen nectar. A few drops were all that the serpents were able to get. But the nectar is very powerful and did have an effect on them. It split their tongues in two, which is why, according to legend, snakes have a bifurcated tongue. The serpents held up their part of the bargain anyway, and released Vinata.
Just as Garuda was larger than life to begin, we are larger than life in our spiritual form, but have reduced our size and energy. Our spiritual potential remains somewhat hidden. We too are constantly faced with obstacles to overcome, which we can easily do by turning to our divine nature.
Garudasana, or eagles pose, starts in mountain pose and begins to bend the knees. One leg wraps over the other and if possible, hooks behind the calf of the opposite leg. The arm on the side of the lifted leg comes under the other arm and then the forearms wrap. We become very small while twisted up in garudasana and then release and become large again.