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How to do King Pigeon Pose

Elegant, exuberant, graceful, wow! These are just some words that come to mind when seeing a yogi in full King Pigeon Pose.

That being said, this pose is not for every body. For many experienced yogis, Raja Kapotasana is elusive, and that goes for the writer of this article as well. I can achieve King Pigeon on only a really, really good day.

Getting Started

In order to prep for this pose, you’ll need to open the hips, the back, the shoulders, the chest and the quads. That’s quite the laundry list of asana. This is also why Raja Kapotasana is usually attempted toward the end of a practice. Poses like Crescent Lunge, Cow Face Pose, Garland Pose, Camel Pose, and Lizard Lunge are all great precursors to King Pigeon.

I would also highly recommend using a strap for a while until the asana becomes more familiar in the body.

How To

To start, make your way into Pigeon Pose. Let’s start with the right leg forward and the left leg behind. Try to keep the hips square to the front of the mat.

Ensure that the knee is safe by gently guiding the right femur bone back. Or, if in your Pigeon Pose the right shinbone aligns parallel with the front of your yoga mat, just flex the right foot. Hold Pigeon Pose for a few breaths.

Slowly begin to walk the hands back until they are on either sides of the hips and the body is upright. Take a few breaths here. On the inhales attempt to lift the sternum up toward the sky. On the exhales try to roll the shoulder blades down the back. Make sure to engage mula bandha and point the tailbone just slightly toward the ground to take any tension out of the lower back.

Bend the back knee. Start by hooking the left big toe into the left elbow crease, or just hold the foot and push it down to stretch out the quad. Test your balance here by lifting the right arm off of the ground. Look skyward if you can.

If you are using a strap, loop the strap around the left foot. Otherwise flex the left foot and reach the left arm with the hand facing open toward the outside of the right ankle. Keep reaching and try to grab the big toe. Then climb the hand up as much as you can so you are holding as much of the foot as you’re able.

Then draw the left elbow toward the body, as if you’re gesturing “YES!” then push the elbow forward in front of you and up toward the sky.

Roll the shoulders back and down. Lift the heart up!

Now take the right arm and circle it up toward the sky and bend the elbow attempting to grab the left wrist, or your strap. If you’ve got this, start walking the fingers down the strap or your wrist until eventually you are grabbing the left foot with both hands.

Again draw the shoulder blades down the back and lift the heart up. If it feels good for you, draw the elbows together and tip the head back until the crown of the head touches the toes.

King Pigeon requires patience, practice and a serious warm up to get there. Even still, it may not be accessible for all bodies. Start where you are. Move from there and enjoy every discovery along the journey.

Master One-Legged King Pigeon Pose – 8 Yoga Poses to Help You Flip Your Grip

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Does flipping your grip in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Dancer Pose (Natarajasana), Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), or any backbend pose seem impossible? Do you feel you are not “bendy” enough to practice One-Legged King Pigeon?
No worries! Many yoga practitioners have the same thoughts. But there are a few key yoga poses that will help prepare your body for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose. And the good news is that when you practice these preparatory poses regularly, the road to flipping your grip will be even faster.
One-Legged King Pigeon is a beautiful heart opening backbend that requires more than just a bendy spine to find the full variation . . .
Flipping your grip (and One-Legged King Pigeon in particular) requires an increased range of motion in several key parts of the body like the shoulders, spine, chest, and quadriceps. The yoga poses below will help prepare these key areas in the body so you can flip your grip in this advanced yoga pose and other backbend poses too.
Practice the following yoga poses to help you flip your grip and find the full expression of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose:

1. Supported Fish Pose (Supported Matsyasana)

Supported Fish Pose gently opens your thoracic spine, chest and shoulders, and also allows you to connect to your breath. As a yoga teacher, I love the many variations available for Supported Fish Pose to accommodate different levels of flexibility and what your body needs.

How to practice supported Fish pose:

  • Grab two yoga blocks and begin seated on your yoga mat
  • Place one yoga block vertically along your thoracic spine (upper spine) and slowly recline onto the block with your legs extended
  • Place the second yoga block under your head for support or allow the crown of your head to relax towards the mat (similar to traditional Fish Pose)
  • Option to keep the legs extended or bring the soles of the feet together with the knees wide for a Reclined Butterfly variation to slowly open the hips
  • Keep the arms by your side for a few breaths as you focus on opening your chest and spine
  • If you would like to add a shoulder opener, slowly extend your arms toward the ceiling
  • Stay here, or to add intensity to the shoulder and chest stretch, reach the arms overhead
  • Remain in your chosen variation of Fish Pose for 30 seconds
  • To exit, press your forearms into the mat and engage your core to come back to seated

If you would like to use a yoga wheel instead of yoga blocks to enhance your Supported Fish Pose, check out the video tutorial How to Use a Yoga Wheel.

2. Shoulder Warm-Up With Yoga Strap

To flip your grip for the full variation of One-Legged King Pigeon, your shoulders need to be warm and open to stay safe and find the full rotation in the shoulder joint. A simple yet effective daily shoulder opener will help prepare your shoulders for the intense external rotation needed to flip your grip.


How to practice this:

  • Find a long yoga strap (or belt or towel) and stand at the top of your mat
  • Grip the strap and extend your arms forward at about shoulder height with your hands wider than your shoulders
  • Slowly bring the strap overhead and behind your back to allow your shoulders to full rotate (if you cannot easily bring your hands behind your back, then make your grip wider on the strap)
  • Continue to warm up your shoulders by rotating the arms in front and behind you
  • To add a gentle stretch, shorten your grip on the strap and bring your arms overhead until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders
  • Pause here for a few breaths and then release
  • Repeat 3-4 times

Want to learn more ways to deepen your yoga practice using a yoga strap? Watch this video tutorial to learn 4 Ways to Deepen Your Practice with a Strap.

3. Cat/Cow Pose

Combining Cat Pose and Cow Pose to gently warm the spine is a favorite among yogis. Use your breath to connect the poses and feel free to pause in either pose to allow a deeper stretch in the chest and back. Cat/Cow Pose also continues to warm-up the shoulders to help prepare you for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose.

How to practice Cat & Cow pose:

  • Begin in Table Top Pose
  • To practice Cow Pose: inhale and lift your chest and gaze toward the ceiling allowing your belly to relax down towards the mat. Cow Pose opens your front body
  • To practice Cat Pose: exhale and draw your navel toward your spine, and press your hands firmly into the yoga mat to round your spine. Cat Pose opens your back body
  • Continue connecting Cat Pose and Cow Pose with your breath for a few rounds
  • Again, feel free to pause in either pose for a few breaths to find a deeper stretch

4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra Pose will continue to warm up the spine and open the chest and shoulders. Cobra Pose will also activate your lower body, including your glutes, which are also needed when practicing backbends. When practicing Cobra Pose, focus on lifting the chest to find length in your spine to protect your low back.

How to practice Cobra pose:

  • Begin in prone position on your yoga mat with your hands under your shoulders and resting on the mat
  • Make sure your legs and feet are hip-distance apart and your toenails are pressing into the mat
  • On your inhale, press your hands firmly into the mat and engage your back body to lift your chest
  • Keep your knees and feet on the mat
  • Slowly straighten into your arms to add intensity and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to bring the bend into your thoracic spine
  • Hold and breath for 15-30 seconds and then slowly release

5. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Flipping your grip is not just about open shoulders and a bendy spine. To flip your grip, your hip flexors, psoas and quadriceps need to be open as well to get your back foot closer to the body. This will help your shoulders rotate more easily when you flip your grip. Low Lunge is a great yoga pose to invite a gentle stretch in your lower body.

How to practice Low Lunge:

  • From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right foot forward and place it in between your hands
  • Be sure the right knee is stacked directly over the right ankle
  • Release your left knee to the mat. Feel free to place a yoga blanket under your knee for added cushion if needed
  • Slowly shift your weight forward to invite the stretch in your left hip, psoas and quadricep
  • After a few breaths, extend your arms toward the ceiling and allow your hips to sink closer to the ground
  • Add a gentle backbend with arms extended or elbows bent (cactus arms) to continue to warm up the spine
  • Hold for a few breaths, and then bring your hands to the mat
  • Repeat on the opposite side

6. Lizard Pose With Quadricep Stretch

Lizard Pose provides a deeper stretch for our inner hips and the added quadricep stretch is the perfect bonus for our One-Legged King Pigeon Pose prep. The key to this pose is to connect to your breath and focus on releasing tension in your hips. The more you release the tension in your hips, the more your quadriceps will open as well.

How to practice Lizard pose:

  • Begin in Low Lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the mat
  • Place your hands inside your right foot and focus on keeping your right knee close to your right shoulder
  • Hold for a few breaths
  • Bend your back left knee, and reach back for the left foot with your right hand
  • You will find a big rotation in the right shoulder by reaching back to grab the inside of your left foot (use a yoga strap if you’re not yet able to reach the back foot)
  • Spiral your chest open toward the ceiling and draw your left foot closer to your body to add intensity to the quadricep stretch
  • Drop down to your left forearm for a more intense stretch
  • Take a few deep breaths, then slowly release
  • Repeat on the opposite side

7. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon Pose is the base pose to flip our grip for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose and offers an amazing stretch to the outside of the hip and the hip flexors. This pose can be very intense if your hips are tight, so always keep a yoga block or yoga blanket close by for modifications as needed.

How to practice Pigeon pose:

  • Begin in Downward Facing Dog, then lift your right leg out behind you
  • Plant your right knee behind your right wrist and bring your right foot toward the left side of your mat
  • Keep your left leg extended and resting on your mat
  • If your right hip is lifted off the mat, rest your hip on a yoga block or yoga blanket
  • Make sure your hips and shoulders are square to the front of your mat
  • Inhale to lift your chest and lengthen your spine, then exhale and lower the chest closer to the mat
  • Depending on how tight your hips are, you can keep the palms on the mat, bring your forearms to a block or the mat, or extend your arms and rest your chest on the ground
  • Stay for 15-30 seconds and then release to a three-legged Down Dog and shake your right leg out to bring circulation back into your hip
  • Repeat on the opposite side

8. Mermaid Pose With Shoulder Stretch

Mermaid Pose is the perfect prep pose to flip our grip in One-Legged King Pigeon. The full expression of Mermaid Pose will open the chest, quadricep, side body, shoulders and hips, and also help you understand some of the mechanics needed to eventually flip your grip. Plus, prepping for Mermaid Pose offers a great shoulder stretch to help you open your shoulder for One-Legged King Pigeon.

How to practice Mermaid pose:

  • Begin in Pigeon Pose on the right side
  • Make sure your hips and shoulders are square toward the front of the mat and your palms are on the floor
  • Bend your left knee and bend your left foot close to your seat
  • Reach your left arm forward and make a big rotation in your left shoulder to reach back and grab your left foot (use a yoga strap if needed)
  • To feel the shoulder opener on your left shoulder, keep a firm grip on your foot, keep your arm straight and then slowly bring your left shoulder forward
  • Pause when the stretch is intense and breathe deeply

After holding the shoulder stretch for a few breaths in Mermaid Pose, you have the option to move directly into the full expression of Mermaid Pose.

How to practice the full expression:

  • Slowly bring the left foot closer to your body to stretch the quadricep and psoas
  • Once you feel comfortable, slide your left foot into your left elbow crease and reach your left hand toward the ceiling
  • Reach your right arm forward and make a big rotation in your right shoulder to allow your right hand to reach back and grab the left hand (your foot is still in the elbow crease)
  • Pause here and breathe deeply
  • When you’re ready, slowly release and repeat on the opposite side

Now You’re Ready For One-Legged King Pigeon Pose!

As a yoga teacher, I have found the prep for the flipping your grip is absolutely key. Now you are ready to try what we came here to do: flip your grip in King Pigeon Pose! If you did a proper warm-up by practicing this sequence, then you are prepared to teach your body the movements needed to flip your grip.

How to practice the peak pose:

  • Begin in Mermaid Pose with the shoulder stretch (pose #8)
  • Bring your left foot as close as you can to your body
  • Actively flex your left foot and turn the toes away from your body
  • With your left hand, grip your left foot so the palm of your hand grabs the top of your foot. Try to grab as much of your foot as you can to help flip your grip
  • If you can, bring your left foot even closer to your body so your shoulder can rotate easier
  • Be sure you are bending with your thoracic spine (mid back) and not just your lumbar spine (low back)
  • If your shoulder feels ready, keep a grip on your foot and slowly rotate your shoulder to flip your grip
  • Once you have it, continue to open your chest and shoulders by pressing your foot into your hand
  • If you’re feeling comfortable, bring your right hand to the left foot as well for the full expression

It is important to remember your yoga practice is a journey, and part of our yoga practice is learning to enjoy the journey. Always honor your body and where you are in your practice. If you want to experience the amazing heart opener in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, then continue to practice yoga daily and invite this sequence into your practice.
With time and practice, you will flip your grip in One-Legged King Pigeon, other backbends, and beyond! Namaste, yogis.

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One-Legged King Pigeon Pose IIEka Pada Rajakapotasana II

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II is an intense variation of Pigeon Pose that deeply stretches the whole front body and hip flexors, strengthening your back while also correcting your posture.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II

(Pronounced as “ache-ah PAH-dah RAH-jah-kahp-oh-TAHS-anna”)

The Sanskrit phrase eka pada means “one foot,” and rajakapota means “the king or ruler of pigeons.”

How to do One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II

Step One

Sit on your yoga mat, facing the short side. Come into Dandasana, or Staff Pose. Bend the right knee in order to place the sole of the right foot on the floor with the right heel close to the perineum. Your right shin should be nearly perpendicular to the ground here.

Step Two

Pull your left leg back completely so that the top of your left thigh, left knee and left foot all press into the mat. Keep your left leg straight behind you in line with your left hip.

Step Three

Next, bend the left knee and raise your left foot behind you so that the left shin becomes perpendicular to the floor. Press your tailbone and pelvis down toward the floor as you lift the left foot. Balance your body weight on the right foot and left knee by pushing the right knee slightly forward. You can push the right knee forward until the right thigh is parallel to the floor.

Step Four

Take a breath and then exhale as you lift your right arm over and behind your head to grip the left foot behind you. On your next exhalation, raise your left arm over and behind your head to catch the left side of your left foot in your left hand as well. If you can go further, then arch your chest more and push it forward to rest your head on your left foot. Lift your elbows up toward the ceiling. Hold the posture for 15 to 30 seconds without holding your breath.

Step Five

Release your left foot on an exhalation and lower the left leg to the floor. Switch legs and repeat the pose for the same amount of time on the other side.

Beginner’s Tip:

You can perform this posture with props to help you find your balance and gain strength in the pose. Come into the pose with a wall behind you so that the shin of your back leg presses slightly into the wall.
You can also place a block — at its lowest height — under the foot of your front leg to ease the strain on the front knee.
Then you can reach back and eventually grab your back foot behind you with your forearms pressing into the wall as well. Gradually you can work on pressing your pelvis down toward the floor.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II

Pose Level:

Level 4

Contraindications and Cautions:

  1. Irregular blood pressure
  2. Migraines triggered by excessive shoulder and neck tension
  3. Extreme fatigue
  4. Recent lower back or neck injuries with lots of inflammation
  5. Menstruation
  6. Pregnancy

Benefits

  • Stretches out tension from the hips to every part of the front torso, including the throat and shoulders.
  • Builds strength in the back.
  • Corrects habitually slouching shoulders for better posture.
  • Boosts circulation to all of the abdominal organs and the thyroid glands.

Next Pose:

Peacock Pose

How to Do Pigeon Pose for EVERY Body

Pigeon Pose is one of the most loved AND ‘hated’ hip-openers in asana practice. In this space, your front leg is bent at a 45 to 90 degree angle (depending on your flexibility and the shape of your skeleton), and the back leg is extended behind you while the pelvis is square and centered.

The upper body can be upright, folded over the front leg, or bending backwards. The pose can also be bound, with the hands reaching up and overhead for the toes of the bent back leg as in One-Legged King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).

If you’re curious, the name comes from: Eka = one, Pada = foot, Raja = king, Kapota = pigeon, and Asana = pose.

Props can also be used; a block placed under the hips if they are unable to reach the floor, or a strap to assist in reaching the back foot for the bound version.

Benefits of Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose has many health benefits. Physically, it stretches the hip flexors, opens gluteus minimus and maximus, and relaxes the piriformis and psoas muscles. Internally, it stimulates the abdominal organs and aids in digestion.

Mentally, this pose challenges our ability to sit with uncomfortable situations. On an emotional level, it can induce sobbing spells (yes, it can make you cry) by bringing up repressed anger and fear and forcing us to breath while we sit with those emotions.

Warnings and Reminders

It is not advised that you jump into this pose at the beginning of class. Ideally, the body should be warmed up by practicing a few preparatory asanas to get the body ready for a deeper stretch.

I recommend doing this pose after, or at the end, of asana class which includes a standing sequence like Sun Salutation A or B, and some hip openers. You can also try Triangle pose (Trikonasana), Tree pose (Vrksasana), and Bound Angle pose (Baddha Konasana).

If you have knee, ankle, or sacroiliac injury, however, practice caution or just don’t do it. Pregnant women should not fold the body over, but remain upright.

Pigeon Pose Variations

There are many variations of this pose. A yogi who can touch his foot to his head is not getting any more benefit than the one who uses a block to support the hips in this posture.

If you are feeling a deep stretch and can relax in the pose without strain, then you are doing it right. Remember that your body is different today than it was yesterday. Honor your body and only go to the level that is comfortable for you today.

An asana is a steady and comfortable posture. If you have been told in the past that “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” please disregard this for the moment. Slow, steady progress is best when opening the hips and heart.

Time to Practice!

So how do you get into this one? Let’s take it step-by-step.

Begin in either Downward Facing Dog or table top. Extend the right leg back behind you, hip space closed. Bring the right knee to the right wrist and the right foot to the left wrist. The shin can be perpendicular to the front edge of your mat (90 degrees), or in towards the groin (45 degrees).

This depends on the flexibility of the hips and the shape of your skeleton. Begin to settle in, adjusting the leg to avoid excess pressure on the knee joint and bring the pelvis to center.

Root down through your front leg and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Avoid having one hip higher than the other, or one hip in front of the other. Adjust the back leg so it is long and extended on the mat, top of the foot pressing down.

Begin with the hands pressed in front of the front leg, or by your sides. Now take your variation:

Credit: Jacqueline Buchanan

Restorative Kapotasana

Fold forward from the waist, bringing your chest towards the knee and shin, coming down to the forearms. Eventually the arms will extend long in front of you and the forehead will rest on the mat.

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Bend the back knee, bringing the heel towards the seat. Reach the arms up and over head while backbending, reaching for the foot. Grab hold and roll the shoulders down and back. This will intensify the stretch through the groin and hip flexors.

Kapotasana with Props

If your pelvis is far from the floor, this will keep you from being able to relax into the space. Place a block or folded blanket under the pelvis for support. You can also use a block or blanket to rest your forearms if the body is folded over. If you are attempting to reach for your toes in the bound variation, try a towel or strap around the foot or ankle to assist you.

Maintain steadiness and comfort in the pose for 5-10 breaths. Carefully push the body up or release any props, and push yourself up with both hands and the back toes to come out of the pose. Find Down Dog or tabletop and change sides.

Additonal Tips

This space can be intense, so it’s easy to tense the muscles, jaw, and have negative thoughts. Try to relax into the pose. Stay calm, and breath deeply. With every in-breath, find length and create space, and with every out-breath go a little bit deeper.

If you are a beginner, the front knee might be bent quite deeply. With practice, the front heel may be able to extend further away from you, with the shin parallel to the front of the mat. Keep moving in this direction and make adjustments with variations and props to make the pose yours.

Try to practice every day — opening the hips will help to open the rest of the body. Never force the pose, being mindful and practicing ahimsa as you develop patience with your current ability.

Yoga For Beginners: Supine Pigeon Pose – Variation on the “King” Hip Opener – Free Online Yoga Video

By: Katharine Vigmostad

Supine Pigeon Pose is one of the most well-known and used hip openers. It is a safe way to practice Pigeon Pose and is accessible to most students.

In this free online yoga video tutorial, YogaUOnline’s Jasmine Punzalan offers a wonderful variation of the classic Supine Pigeon Pose – also known as Supta Kapotasana – utilizing techniques from wall yoga that will benefit your practice tremendously (and your hips will thank you!).

This quick and simple video tutorial will provide specific details to practice this pose safely and effectively. This is a great way to cool down at the end of a strenuous practice.

Benefits of Supine Pigeon (Supta Kapotasana)

  • Increases external range of motion of femur in hip socket

  • Lengthens hip flexors

  • Prepares body for backbends

  • Prepares body for seated postures such as Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Contraindications:

  • Knee injury

  • Sacroiliac issues

(Benefits Source: https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/pigeon-pose)

Getting Set Up: Bringing Supine Pigeon Pose to the Wall

  1. Place your mat so one end is touching the base of a wall

  2. Lay down close enough to the wall so when you bend your knees and place your feet on the wall your legs are in a 90-degree angle at both the hip and the knee joints.

  3. Bend your knees, and place your feet on the wall so they are hip-width apart.

Moving Into Supine Pigeon Pose

  1. Cross your right ankle on your left knee; flex through the right ankle and press your left foot firmly into the wall.

  2. Place your right hand on your right thigh and gently press the leg away from you.

Supine Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana): Moving Deeper

If you are very flexible and would like to get a deeper stretch follow the next few steps:

  1. Try: moving your hips closer to the wall to make your hip-crease flexion deeper.

  2. Try: draw the right foot down the front of the left thigh closer to your hip crease.

Rinse and Repeat

Place your feet both back on the wall, and then cross the left foot on the right thigh; repeat all of the steps above on the other side.

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Pigeon Pose: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Eka pada rajakapotasana (Eh-kah PAH-dah rah-JAH-cop-oh-TAHS-anna), also known as the pigeon or one-legged pigeon pose, is a backbend that can relieve nerve tension and chronic pain while increasing circulation and controlling desires. Whichever version of pigeon you may choose to try, remember to maintain some awareness on your breathing.

Sanskrit:

  • Eka = one
  • Pada = foot
  • Raja = king
  • Kapota = pigeon, or dove
  • Asana = pose

Tips:

This hip-opening backbend stretches the hips, back, and shoulders. As with any pose, please exercise caution as you explore new variations and listen to your body’s limits.

Physical Benefits:

  • Opens hip flexor muscles (psoas, rectus femoris) and groin muscles.
  • Opens hip rotator muscles (gluteus medius and minimus).
  • Relieves sciatic nerve tension and ease chronic low back pain.
  • Increases circulation to urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.

Energetic Benefits:

  • Thought to control sexual desire.

Mudra: Joint Mudra

Incorporate the simple joint mudra into your pigeon pose as it is believed to be useful in relieving pain and providing energy for longevity. This mudra is often used for daily meditations and can be done as needed, up to four times each day.

How to: While in your asana, take your right hand and fold the thumb and ring finger together. Then, take your left hand and fold the thumb and middle finger together.

Mantra:

Kali Mantra

The pigeon pose helps eliminate pain and nervous tension, bringing about a sense of serenity and peace and calming our disruptive desires. The Kali mantra can be regularly chanted to continue to unlock long-term benefits beyond this pose.

“Kali Raat Ek Nadi Veer

Saat Smudar Ka Jagmag Teer

Kamakhya Rani Ka Gauri Pinda

Bhairavnath Haro Sabh Peera

Shabad Sancha Pind Kancha

Furo Mantra Ishwarovacha”

Preparatory Poses:

  • Bound-angle pose | Baddha konasana
  • Cobra pose | Bhujangasana
  • Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana
  • Cow face pose | Gomukhasana
  • Reclining hero pose | Supta Virasana
  • Extended side angle pose | Utthita Parsvakonasana
  • Extended triangle pose | Utthita Trikonasana

Follow-Up Poses:

  • Downward-facing dog | Adho mukha svanasana
  • Constructive rest pose
  • Happy baby pose | Ananda balasana

Please check with a doctor before performing this pose if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Knee injury, meniscus or ligament injury.
  • Sacroiliac joint injury: the opposing action of the legs in this pose may increase strain across the joint.
  • History of shoulder dislocation: do not progress to holding the top of the foot behind the back in the pigeon variations and use caution reaching behind you for the foot.

Adjustments/Modifications:

  • Lower back pain – If at any point you feel low back pain in the pose, back off, draw your low belly in and lengthen through your spine to avoid compression. A folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under the front thigh will add support and may relieve pain. Do not continue in pain.
  • Knee position – The knee is a hinge joint (open-close) and therefore should not be challenged from side to side. In pigeon pose the weight of the body and the pressure of the floor challenge the knee joint on either side. It is important to keep the ankle in dorsiflexion (toes flexed back) to align the shinbone. If you are feeling any tension or pain around the front knee, back off, place the foot closer to the opposite groin, and consider a supportive blanket, block, or bolster under the thigh. Do not continue in pain.
  • Progressing to advanced variations – As you prepare to try on other variations of pigeon, use a strap around the back foot and slowly draw your foot in toward your torso as you lift your chest up.

Step-By-Step:

  1. From your hands and knees, bring your right knee forward to the floor just behind your right hand.
  2. Place your right foot toward the left side of your mat, shin on the mat, with your knee at an angle that creates a stretch in the hip without pain in the knee. If your shin is parallel to the top of the mat, flex your foot back to stabilize the joints.
  3. Walk your left knee behind you until your leg is fully extended. Draw your inner thighs towards each other, slightly lifting your pelvis higher.
  4. Find the middle point where equal weight is between your left and right sides, and your pelvis is squared to the front of your mat.
  5. If the right hip is off the ground, use a folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under your right hip for support, keeping the hips square and level.
  6. Uncurl your left toes, looking back to see that your ankle is in line with your shin, and your leg is running in a straight line behind you.
  7. On an inhale, send your tailbone down towards the earth and the crown of your head up towards the sky.
  8. Exhale and slowly walk your hands forward in front of you, placing elbows on the floor or arms extended in front of you with torso on the floor.
  9. Breathe slowly for at least 5 deep breaths.
  10. Slowly walk your hands back up towards your body, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Send the head of the arm bones back, allowing your upper chest to lift slightly so that the collarbones are broad.
  11. Inhale to send your tailbone down and your crown up, walking your hands closer and closer to the body on an exhale so that the torso is moving towards an upright posture. Breathe here for 5 breaths or continue with the variation pose below.
  12. Variation A – If you are able to painlessly and evenly stay in this posture while removing your right hand from the earth, you may reach your right arm behind you with the palm up. Draw your lower belly in to stabilize your spine, inner thighs moving towards each other. Bend your right knee and grasp the flexed foot with your hand. You may stay here and breathe or progress to the next variation.
  13. Variation B – Point your foot and slowly shift your hand to the toes of the foot by outwardly rotating your arm deeper, slowly lifting the elbow forward, upwards, and eventually backwards so that the palm is facing down. Press your left support hand into the floor to lengthen your waistline, keeping even weight in the left and right sides of the body. Breathe here or progress to the next variation.
  14. Variation C – If you are able to maintain your balance and stability draw the lower belly in, move your inner thighs towards each other, lift your left arm up and back, grasping your foot with both hands. Send the head of the arm bone back into the socket, keep the action of your lower belly and legs, and breathe.
  15. Slowly, release your foot, place both palms on the floor and step back to adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog).
  16. Return to your hands and knees and repeat on the other side.

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How to Build a Sequence Around Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is an intermediate yoga posture that opens the hips and chest, stretches the quads, and provides a deep backbend. This complex asana carries both mental and physical benefits and a unique history.

The pose may have been named after an actual pigeon (kapota translates to pigeon in Sanskrit), as the full expression of the pose resembles a pigeon puffing up its chest. It may have also been named after a yogic master named Kapota, who was known for agility, strength, and vitality as documented in the Mahabharata scripture.

The Benefits of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Pigeon pose is ubiquitous in Western yoga classes as a go-to hip opener that has many benefits beyond stretching and strengthening the hips! Pigeon pose also stretches the quads and chest, and is a backbend depending on the variation you choose.

Pigeon pose helps to stretch the psoas muscle, the main hip flexor and connector of the torso and legs that becomes shorter due to a sedentary lifestyle. It also promotes the external rotation of the femur in the hip socket, allowing ligaments, tendons and muscles to lengthen and strengthen.

The full expression of the posture also stimulates organs and glands in the abdomen, all of which promote physical wellness. Mentally, Pigeon Pose helps you stay calm in stressful situations by activating the sympathetic nervous system when the “fight or flight” stress response is triggered.

Using Pigeon as the Peak Pose

Pigeon is often practiced at the end of a yoga sequence, primarily due to the body being warmed up from other postures by that point, and to focus on relaxing the mind and calming down toward more restful, end-of-practice postures.

The beauty of yoga sequencing is that it’s holistic, allowing the poses to work together by activating different areas in the body in preparation for a peak pose. Warming up the hips and back will keep help prepare the body for Pigeon pose and keep you safe in the full expression of the posture.

Please note: if you have knee injury or sacroiliac issues, pigeon pose should not be performed to avoid further injury. Also, our bodies are different, so you might need to build up to the full expression of Pigeon by practicing its variations and other postures.

Pigeon Pose Sequence

Before you begin, do five rounds of Sun Salutation A to warm up for the postures.

Bound Angle Pose

Also known as Baddha Konasana, this pose helps you explore external rotation in the hips. Bend forward for a deeper stretch in the hip flexors. Find gentle movements to explore the posture, and hold the pose as long as you need.

Downward Dog Variation: Three-Legged Dog

This Downward Dog variation (adho mukha svanasana) allows you to explore your hip flexibility, increase circulation to the hips, and prepare them for a deeper stretch. It is also a great way to stretch the arms, chest, and back.

Crescent Lunge

Anjaneyasana helps to stretch the psoas, quads, and prepare the hips for deeper movements. The pose also opens the chest and offers a gentle backbend to prepare for a deeper bend. The duality of push and pull in this pose helps prepare you for the push and pull in pigeon pose.

Warrior II

Virabhadrasana II helps you cultivate focus and does a great job of warming and opening the hips and lengthening the upper and lower body. Hold the pose for at least one minute to power up for other poses.

Thread the Needle

This is a great way to engage the psoas and externally rotate the hips. If Pigeon pose is ever inaccessible to you, this variation gives you similar benefits in a supine position.

Pigeon Pose

The peak pose! You have the option of laying forward for a more restorative posture, staying upright with a slight backbend, or going for the full expression by reaching your hands back and bending the back foot up, grasping onto the toes.

You may also use a mat or block to place under the hips to provide extra support. Each level is beneficial—find where you fit best, and focus on building the pose for your body.

Knees to Nose

Return to a supine position and hug the knees toward your chest. To make it extra yummy, rock back and forth to massage and release tension in the spine.

Reclined Twist

A reclined twist will help release tension by stretching the outer hip and giving the spine a gentle twist.

To finish off, try a brief meditation in a comfortable seated posture or relax in Savasana. Focus on the effect the practice has cultivated by doing a body scan from the toes to the top of the head.

And remember, each body is different and requires different movements depending on the day. Respect your own limits and give your body the mindful movement it deserves to gain the most from this sequence.

Many people are familiar with tight hips. Activities and sports that include running and jumping can make the outer hips tight, and sitting for long periods of time can shorten and stiffen the front hip flexors. One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (usually referred to as “Pigeon Pose”) is a powerful hip-opener that can help increase flexibility and the range of motion in the hip joints.

The Sanskrit name for the pose, “Eka Pada Rajakapotasana” (EKK-uh PAHD-uh RAH-juh-KA-poh-TAHS-uh-nuh), comes from five words:

  • “Eka” — meaning “one”
  • “Pada” — meaning “foot” or “leg”
  • “Raja” — meaning “king”
  • “Kapota” — meaning “pigeon”
  • “Asana” — meaning “pose”

The full variation of the pose, in which you touch your back toes to your head, is an intense backbend suitable for advanced practitioners only. This version, with the back leg extended, is appropriate for intermediate yoga students. Be sure to warm up beforehand with other hip-opening poses, like Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), Tree (Vrksasana), and Bound Angle / Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana).

Yoga is really trying to liberate us from… shame about our bodies. To love your body is a very important thing… The health of your mind depends on your being able to love your body.

Rodney Yee

Benefits of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen. It can often be felt deeply in specific upper-leg and hip muscles, including the psoas, piriformis, TFL (tensor fascia latae) and gluteus maximus. It relieves tension in the chest and shoulders, and it also stimulates the abdominal organs, which helps to regulate digestion. The restorative version of the pose (see Modifications & Variations, below) helps to relieve stress, fatigue, and anxiety.

Cautions

Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic knee, ankle, or sacroiliac injury. Women who are pregnant should not practice the restorative version of the pose; they should keep their torso upright. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.

Instructions

  1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), or on your hands and knees in Table Pose.
  2. Bring your right knee between your hands, placing your right ankle near your left wrist. Extend your left leg behind you so your kneecap and the top of your foot rest on the floor.
  3. Press through your fingertips as you lift your torso away from your thigh. Lengthen the front of your body. Release your tailbone back toward your heels. Work on squaring your hips and the front side of your torso to the front of your mat.
  4. Draw down through your front-leg shin and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Flex your front foot. Press down through the tops of all five toes of the back foot.
  5. Gaze downward softly.
  6. Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, tuck your back toes, lift your back knee off the mat, and then press yourself back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat for the same amount of time on the other side.

Modifications & Variations

Pigeon Pose can feel intense and stimulating. Remember to breathe evenly throughout the pose, particularly when you are feeling discomfort. Make any of the following changes to find a variation of the pose that works best for you:

  • If your hips are tight, your front-leg hip might not come all the way to the floor. If this is the case, place a folded blanket or yoga block under the hip of your front leg for extra support.
  • Work toward bringing your front shin as parallel to the front edge of your mat as possible. If your hips are tight, your front shin might angle back toward your opposite-leg hip. That is fine. With practice, your hip flexibility will increase.
  • For a more restorative variation on the pose, drape your torso over your front shin. Stretch your arms forward along the mat. Allow your forehead to rest by placing it on the mat, your hands, a folded blanket, or a yoga block. Also allow your body weight to rest on your front leg as you continue to square your hips.
  • More flexible students can deepen the backbend in the pose. Perform steps 1-4 listed above. Then, bend your back (left) knee. Reach your left arm back and take hold of the outside of your left ankle. Keep your left foot flexed. If you are okay there, reach your right arm back and hold onto the inside of your left ankle. Square your shoulders to the front of the room. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then slowly release. Repeat this variation on the opposite side.
  • Students with an advanced yoga practice and deep flexibility can take the full version of the pose:
    1. Perform the backbend variation listed above.
    2. Then, clasp your left toes with your left hand, reaching your elbow toward the ceiling.
    3. Extend your right arm overhead, then reach back and clasp your left toes with your right hand, as well, reaching your right elbow toward the ceiling.
    4. Drop your head back, touching the sole of your left foot to the crown of your head.
  • Intermediate students can use a strap around the back foot to help work toward this variation.

Tips

To gain all of the benefits of Pigeon Pose, it’s important to keep your mind calm while maintaining alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:

  • The further forward your front heel is, the deeper and more intense the pose will be. Some beginners might bend their front knee deeply. Over time, with practice and patience, you will be able to bring your shin more parallel to the front edge of the mat.
  • Keep your front foot flexed to help protect your knee.
  • Keep your back thigh internally rotated. Try to press all five toes of your back foot onto the mat.
  • Take your time. Pigeon Pose can bring up more emotional resistance than other, less intense poses. If you are getting frustrated, take a deep breath and let go. Then, try again. Your flexibility will increase with time, but you can’t force it. Be patient and accept the present moment. Then, try again.

Unlock & Release

In yoga, it is often taught that opening the hips opens up the rest of the body. Practice stretching your hips every day, and always modify the poses if you need to. Never force yourself beyond your current ability — practice the pose you can do, not the one you wish you could do! With time, patience, and dedication, your muscles will relax and lengthen, benefiting your whole body in activities on and off the mat!

The Benefits Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Many students come to yoga class seeking relief for tight hips. In fact, the most common requests I get is for “hip openers.” Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is one of my favorite poses to open hips. Pigeon Pose can also be helpful in finding relief from sciatic and back pain as well as releasing built up stress, trauma, fear, and anxiety.

There are numerous advantages to practicing Pigeon Pose.

Physical benefits:

– Opens the hip joint

– Lengthens the hip flexor

– Stretches the thighs, gluteals and piriformis muscles

– Extends the groin and psoas

Collateral benefits:

– Helps with urinary disorder

– Stimulates the internal organs

– Increases hip flexibility

– Improves posture, alignment, and overall suppleness

– Lessens or alleviates sciatic pain

– Diminishes lower back pain and stiffness

Emotional benefits: It is a primal reaction to store stress, trauma, fear and anxiety in the hips. These bottled up feelings create tight hips.

– Pigeon Pose opens the hips and releases negative feelings and undesirable energy stored in your system.

Susan Laskoff

RYT 200 Hours

Susan teaches an All Levels class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:00 pm-1:15 pm

Yoga king pigeon pose

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