Eka = One Pada = foot Raja = King or ‘royal’ Kapota = Pigeon Asana = Pose or ‘seat’
A pretty deep hip-opener; pigeon pose can feel like a great stretch for some, but torture for others….
The hips are usually linked to a place in which we store a lot of emotional tension – and this is only emphasised by our habits of sitting in chairs, cars and choosing running as a form of exercise.
When we practice hip openers – especially for those who’s hips tend to be ‘tight’ – there’s the opportunity to release a lot of ‘stuck’ tension which we may have been subconsciously holding on to. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself facing some unfamiliar mental and physical sensations as you approach poses like this. Trust me, a yoga class focussed on hip-openers can sometimes induce the room to tears….
While it may take some time to open up to the full expression of pigeon pose; the benefits are really worth it: this asana opens up the groin, hips, abdomen and chest, as well as stimulating all these areas energetically.
Before approaching Pigeon pose, it’s a good idea to warm up the whole body: as always, move through your surya namaskar (sun salutations), warrior poses, and other standing poses which help to open the hips such as prasarita padottanasana.
As you come down to the floor; open out all sides of the hips with Baddha Konasana, Gomukhasana, and Upavistha Konasana.
Finally, move back up in to Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) to approach your Pigeon pose.
- From downward facing dog, inhale and stretch the [right] leg up to the sky behind you.
- Exhaling, bring the [right] knee towards the [right] wrist. The knee can be angled slightly wider than the hip if you’re able to take it that far. *If you have tighter hips, which is usually the case with most males, you may even need to keep the front leg folded under, so that the leg is bent and you’re essentially resting on the heel. *Remember to keep the front foot flexed in order to engage the ligaments surrounding the knee – this is especially important for anyone with tightness in the hips or vulnerable knees.
- Keep the other leg extended behind you on the floor, foot pointing away and the whole of the top of that back foot pressing in to the floor for stability.
- Aim to bring both hips parallel and sink them down to the floor here – not letting one hip lift higher than the other, as the tendency seems to be.
- If you have relatively flexible hips, your shin may be able to come forward, and if you can make it all the way, it could come parallel with the front end of the mat.
- *Instead of pushing the shin forwards, try moving in to this position by moving the body backwards.
- Keep the hands by the hips, focussing on sinking the hips down and opening up through the chest, just as a pigeon might puff out its chest.
- Stay here for around 10 breaths to really get a sense of what pigeon pose feels like. If you’re able to you could fold forwards, or take the full king pigeon pose by bending the back leg and holding on around the ankle – pulling the foot in towards you and coming in to a deeper backbend. (It’ll be pretty obvious as to whether you’re going to be taking this a step further, depending up the amount of comfort or discomfort you feel….)
- On an exhale, bring the hands a little forwards to the front of the mat, and tuck the back toes under.
- Press through the hands and raise back up in to downward facing dog. Stay here for a moment and notice the effects of the pose on the mind and body before moving on to the other side.
As always, it’s not how far you go in a pose, but how you go; move with awareness and enjoy wherever you get to. Practice never makes perfect when it comes to yoga, which is the brilliance of this never-ending story.
To get an idea of what transitioning in and out of various variations of Eka Pada Raj Kapotasana looks like, have a look at the video below: