Pigeon Pose, Ardha Kapotasana, (ARR-DA KAH-POH-TAHS-ANNA))
arda (half) + kapo (pigeon) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: One-footed King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Kapotasana, Mermaid Pose, One-legged King Pigeon Pose
The king of hip openers, pigeon pose will give stiff hips a deep release
Half Pigeon Pose, also known as One-Legged Pigeon Pose is a popular yogic backbend and hip opener. It can be performed in a variety of ways to suit different body types and levels of mobility. Half Pigeon Pose can be adapted to be beginner-friendly, or to be a challenging intermediate asana.
The fundamental purpose of Half Pigeon Pose is to condition the body for the more advanced Pigeon Pose, which requires a lot of spinal flexibility. As well as being an accessible and fun backbend pose, Ardha Kapotasana is also a great way to work on external hip rotation, ankle flexibility, and balance.
Practicing Half Pigeon Pose can be a very grounding experience if you’ve had a tumultuous day. This asana can also help boost your confidence, both in terms of your yoga practice and in general.
- Improves posture. Half Pigeon Pose conditions the body to lengthen upwards. It also instills the instinct to open your chest and draw the shoulders back. Both of those actions strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, which results in a confident, upright posture.
- Stretches the hips and groin. One of the main actions of Half Pigeon Pose is the external rotation of the front hip, which has a great effect on the hip and groin muscles. Simultaneously, this asana provides a great opportunity to stretch the hip flexors on the back leg. This is a great pose for improving and maintaining your hip flexibility.
- Conditions the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor has an invaluable role both in the reproductive system and digestive system. Finding a steady and level position for the hips requires work from the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn makes them stronger.
- Creates space in your chest and rib cage. The beautiful backbend is great for opening your heart, broadening the space between the collarbones, and freeing the rib cage. Overall, it is beneficial for better lung capacity and cardiovascular function.
- Instills confidence. The very act of puffing your chest and holding your head high contributes to a confident attitude. If you need a pick-me-up, Half Pigeon Pose is a great way to boost your self-confidence.
How to Do Half Pigeon Pose: Step-By-Step
1. Start in a four-point kneeling position. Align your hands to be directly underneath the shoulders.
2. Slide your right knee forwards, bringing it behind your right wrist. Shuffle your right foot across to the left side of the yoga mat, rotating your right hip to allow the shin to reach towards the front.
3. Flex your right foot, pressing the outer edge of the foot and ankle into the ground.
4. Next, square your hips in relation to the floor, as well as forward. Pull your left hip down, and level your hip bones.
5. Slide the left knee back, sinking your seat into the space you created. Make sure the hips stay level the entire time.
6. Finally, walk your hands closer to your body. You can position them either side of your right foot and knee, or around the outside of your hips. Lengthen through the spine and open your chest forward. Pull the shoulders back.
7. Stay in Half Pigeon Pose for at least five full breaths. To exit, bring your hands in front of your right shin, transferring the weight forward. Lift your hips and tuck the toes on the back foot. Free the front leg and step into Downward Facing Dog. Perform Vinyasa if desired, or land straight into a four-point kneeling position to perform the pose on the other side.
- There should be no twisting or pulling sensation in your front knee. The rotation should come from opening your hip, and if you feel any pain or discomfort in your knee, that’s a sign that you are compensating for the lack of rotation in the hip. The way to combat that is to adjust the position of your shin and foot.
- If you have the hip flexibility to align your shin parallel to the front edge of your mat, the best way to do that is by using active mobility. Instead of pulling the foot forward, push some weight into your hands, press into the outer edge of the foot, and move your knee back. That way, you’ll know exactly how far you can shift without forcing your body to an uncomfortable position.
- It’s important to keep an even curve throughout the entire spine. Don’t just bend your lower back and your neck. Focus on opening your thoracic spine and creating spaces between your vertebrae.
Half Pigeon Pose With Blocks or Blanket
This is a popular variation that allows new yogis or practitioners with lower levels of hip mobility to enjoy Half Pigeon Pose. It can be very challenging to keep the hip level and to sustain the pressure of the body weight in the hip and groin area.
To alleviate that pressure, you can add a block, or blanket (or a couple of blocks) under the sit bone of the front leg. Not only will it take some pressure off, it can also stop you from sinking into one side more than the other.
Another great way to use blocks for Half Pigeon Pose is to rest your hands on them. The more you lift your chest, the harder it will be to reach the floor. You can lift onto your fingertips, but it doesn’t offer the same amount of stability as using a pair of blocks. And if you’re propping yourself with a block under the hip, reaching the floor may simply be impossible without support. All you have to do is add a block under each hand. They can be positioned to provide support at different heights. As you progress in your yoga journey, you may opt for a lower position.
The next level of this pose is to add contact with the back leg. This is a more advanced form of the one-legged pigeon asana, designed for those who are ready to take it a step further. It also requires the practitioner to be firmly established in their position, as they won’t have the luxury of having both hands on the floor.
To perform this variation, start by getting settled in your Half Pigeon Pose. You may rest your front hip on a block as described in the option above. Then, bend your back knee, actively drawing the heel towards your shoulder. Carefully reach the same side arm back and grasp your foot. Take care to remain facing forward and to maintain your balance. The other hand can stay on the floor. Alternatively, you can extend it in front of you.
- Knee injury. When performed properly, this pose should not add any pressure or cause any distress for the front knee. However, if there is an existing injury, even one that happened a while ago, you should take extra precaution to make sure you don’t exacerbate your knee.
- Hip mobility. If your hips feel quite tight, don’t force yourself into a compromising position. This applies both to the external rotation of the front hip, as well as the hip flexor extension of the back leg. If you practice Half Pigeon Pose regularly, your hips will gradually become more flexible. Be patient with yourself and use props where necessary!
- Backbends. Any backbend asana requires spinal extension, which should be approached with caution if you have a past or current spinal injury. If an injury is mild, you may proceed with modifications, as long as you’re cleared by your doctor. If an injury is severe (such as a slipped or a herniated disc), it’s best to forego Half Pigeon Pose, as well as other backbends that put the pressure on the spine. Another thing you should stay mindful of is the compression of the spine. In some cases, it can cause dizziness or headache. Avoid “hinging” at your neck and lumbar spine, instead aiming for an even curve through the entire spine.
- Ankle injury. The position of the front ankle plays an important part protecting the knee, which requires it to be in an active, or flexed, position. If you have a condition that causes pain or severe discomfort in the ankle, you may want to adjust this pose.
Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana)
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Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
Hero Pose (Virasana)
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