Pigeon Pose: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
- Opens your hip flexor muscles (psoas, rectus femoris) and your groin muscles.
- Opens your hip rotator muscles (gluteus medius & minimus).
- May relieve sciatic nerve tension and ease chronic low back pain.
- Advanced version opens your chest and shoulders
- Traditionally thought to control sexual desire, increase circulation to urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.
- Knee injury, meniscus or ligament injury.
- Sacroiliac joint injury - due to the opposing action of the legs in this pose which may increase strain across the joint.
- History of shoulder dislocation - do not progress to holding the top of the foot behind the back (Advanced b below) and use caution reaching behind you for the foot.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna)
eka = one
pada = foot
raja = king
kapota = pigeon
A progression from intermediate to advanced versions will be given.
- From your hands and knees, bring your right knee forward to the floor just behind your right hand.
- Outwardly rotate your right thigh so that your right foot is in front of your left knee, shin on a 45 degree angle on the floor. Strongly flex your right foot to align the ankle and shin bone. The further away the foot is from your knee, the greater the outward rotation in the hip, the greater the challenge.
- Curl your left toes under and begin to press the floor away, walking your knee further away behind you until your leg is fully extended with your shin, knee and thigh in contact with the floor. The right knee may come slightly outside of the line of your pelvis
- Draw your inner thighs towards each other, slightly lifting your pelvis higher.
- 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.
- If your right hip is off the ground, slide your left leg further back first, keeping your hips square.
- If the right hip continues to be off the ground use a folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under your right hip for support, keeping the hips square and level.
- 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.
- On an inhale, send your tailbone down towards the earth and the crown of your head up towards the sky.
- 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.
- Breathe slowly for at least 5 deep breaths.
- 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 collar bones are broad.
- Inhale sending 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 advanced pose below.
- Advanced 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 stage.
- Advanced A - 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 stage.
- Advanced 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.
- Slowly, release your foot, place both palms on the floor and step back to Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Facing Dog.
- Return to your hands and knees and repeat on the other side.
- Low 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 bent leg thigh will add support and may relieve the 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 dorsi flexion (toes up) to align the shin bone. 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 Versions – A belt may be used around the foot rather than holding with the hand. Before entering the pose, make a small loop in a strap and place it around the back foot at the ball of the foot. Set up the length of the strap on the floor beside you. Enter the first phase of the pose, during the second phase, bend the knee and grasp the strap A) arm behind you palm up, B) turn the palm down, externally rotating the shoulder sending the elbow forward, up, and back, or C) with both hands behind you. In each stage slowly walk the hand (s) back so that the tension increases on the strap.
Article written by Dr. Robin Armstrong:
Dr. Robin Armstrong is a Vancouver chiropractor and yoga instructor. Robin blends her western knowledge gained from her experience as a chiropractor, with the ancient eastern knowledge passed through generations of yoga teachers. Robin’s classes emphasize safety, breath, alignment, and movement, while teaching students ways to strengthen and lengthen their bodies to handle the stresses of our modern lifestyle. If you are coming to her as a patient, expect to be prescribed yoga! Learn more about Dr. Armstrong at www.stayactive.ca