(One-Legged) King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, (A-kah PAH-dah rah-jah-kah-poh-TAH-suh-nuh)
eka (one) + pada (foot or leg) + raja (king) + kapota (pigeon) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: One-footed King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II
Pose Type: Backbend, Balancing, Stretching
Open up your hip flexors and stretch through the front body in this challenging variation of Pigeon Pose
King Pigeon Pose Fundamentals
Challenge yourself to expand and release in this advanced yoga asana. King Pigeon is a combination of two pose types – it’s both a hip opener and a back bend.
The pose will improve flexibility and range of motion in your hips, which may help you hold seated postures for longer during meditation and breathwork practice.
By opening your chest, the pose aids in deeper breathing, increases your energy, and helps in building a healthier posture.
This pose is powerful and difficult. Only attempt it after some experience with yoga, and only if you can comfortably hold backbends like Camel Pose, and less intense hip openers like the Seated Pigeon Pose.
The pose was popularized by two students of the renowned yoga teachers Krishnamacharya – BKS Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga, and Patthabi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga. If you are practicing any of these yoga types, you can expect to have a chance to develop the posture when you are ready to move to the sequence which incorporates it.
As graceful as this pose appears, it may also be dangerous if done without proper foundation and flexibility. Furthermore, it should also be performed only after a warm-up, ideally towards the end of the class. It may be a “peak pose”, done after a sequence of sun salutations and less intense hip and chest opening poses.
Some experience in yoga and self-work is not only needed for physical reasons. Since King Pigeon Pose opens both your hips and your heart, it may inevitably bring some emotions out. Already having some knowledge of how to cope with this vulnerability and emotional release, will make the pose much more rewarding for you. Trust yourself – you will know when you are ready to try it, both mentally and physically.
When approached at the right moment, done with humility and awareness, this pose may become a powerful healing method as well as a great tool to increase your flexibility, confidence, and a sense of internal power and self-love.
King Pigeon Pose Benefits
- Stretches and opens the hips, shoulders, neck, and chest, releasing tension and improving your range of motion with consistent practice.
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles and the back.
- This combination of strengthening and lengthening may help you improve your postural habits over time.
- Massages abdominal organs, and may improve digestion and aid in detoxification. The expansion of the chest also stimulates the lungs, aiding breathing and improving lung function.
- It may increase energy and fight fatigue, as it boosts blood circulation and activates the central nervous system.
How To Do King Pigeon Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin on your hands and knees. Step one leg in front of you and bend the knee, sliding the foot towards the wrist of the hand on the opposite side, and placing the knee on the ground. Extend the other leg back behind you.
2. You can keep your front shin parallel to your hips, or bring the foot close to your groin. The right position will depend on your anatomy and flexibility, so do what feels best for you.
3. Slowly bend the back knee, pointing the foot towards the sky. Keep the front leg active and firmly pressed into the ground.
4. Now grab the foot with the same-sided hand, and pull it in towards your body. Now, flip your grip by holding the outside edge of your foot.
5. Turn your torso back to the front of the mat, and lift the elbow up towards the sky.
6. You can leave your other arm down, or if you want to try the full expression of the pose, reach it up, bend the elbow and grab the back foot, having both arms in the same position, called “the overhead grip”.
7. Open your chest and belly, and look up.
8. Hold the pose for a couple of breaths, and slowly release. Then move to the other leg and repeat the steps on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- If you cannot lower the hip of the front leg to the floor, support it with a folded blanket or a block.
- The position of your front foot will depend on your anatomy and flexibility. You can keep the shin parallel to the hips, or move the ankle close to your groin. Both versions are correct – as long as you feel no pain.
- This pose is both a deep back bend and a deep hip-opener. For this reason, never perform it without a proper warm-up. It would be best to do it towards the end of your practice.
- Keep the toes of your front leg flexed to protect the knee.
- Don’t place too much weight on the back knee cap, rather on the thigh, slightly above the knee itself.
King Pigeon Pose Variation:
King Pigeon Pose Variation: Seated Pigeon Pose
King Pigeon Pose is the full expression of the classic, Seated Pigeon Pose. For this reason, the classic Pigeon Pose is the best variation you can do if it’s difficult to do the overhead grip.
To practice this variation, focus only on the first steps of the pose, keeping the front knee bent, and the other leg extended to the back. Keep your torso upright instead of reclining down to the floor to slowly build a stable foundation for the full King Pigeon Pose.
King Pigeon Pose Variation: Mermaid Pose
Mermaid pose is ideal preparation for the full King Pigeon pose if you want to begin working on bending the back knee.
The shape of the pose is the same, the only thing that is different is the grip in your arms. Instead of doing the overhead position, you will hook the arm of the same side around the foot of the back leg.
Then, lift the other arm, and reach it back to grasp the wrist or fingers of the hand that’s hooked around the foot. This variation is still an advanced pose and is only slightly easier than the full King Pigeon Pose, so still approach it with awareness and only if you already have a strong foundation in standard Pigeon Pose.
King Pigeon Pose Variation: King Pigeon Pose with A Strap
If you are able to achieve the base for the King Pigeon Pose and can do the overhead reach, but cannot grasp the back foot, use a strap.
Loop the strap around the foot, and hold it with your hands. Then lift the back foot and use the strap to extend your reach, while still keeping your arms in the same overhead position as you would without the strap.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Rotating the Back Leg. Keep your back leg in a neutral position. To do that, tuck your toes and lift your hip and thigh to adjust the leg. Then lower them back to the ground, maintaining this position.
One hip in front of the other. Students often put most of their weight on the front bent knee. However, you should keep your hips square and manage weight evenly. If that’s difficult, prop the hip of the front leg with a cushion or a block.
If you have an injury in the back, shoulders, or hips, avoid practicing this pose, as it puts a lot of pressure on these areas. Also, refrain from the pose if you have any knee issues.
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