Reclining Pigeon Pose, Supta Kapotasana, (Soo-tah-kah-poh-tahs-anna)
Supta (reclined) + kapota (pigeon) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Reclined Pigeon Pose, Sucirandhrasana, Figure Four Stretch Pose, Eye Of The Needle Pose
Stretch your hips and glutes and relieve tension in your lower back with Reclining Pigeon Pose
Reclining Pigeon Pose Fundamentals
Reclining Pigeon Pose is a restorative hip opening pose. It is a variation of the Pigeon Pose, and is called the Reclined Pigeon Pose because it’s done lying on the back. In Yin Yoga, it’s named the Eye Of The Needle Pose, and is done passively and held for several minutes, as is typical for this yoga style.
This regenerative pose provides relief for tight hips. It also releases the iliotibial band (IT band), connective tissue that runs from the pelvic bone to the shinbone, on the outer side of the leg. Since the Reclining Pigeon Pose targets this area, it can also relieve knee issues caused by a tight IT band.
It is also beneficial for athletes and those who are sitting at a desk. As opposite as these two groups sound, both often struggle with stiff hips and hamstrings. With continuous practice, the Reclining Pigeon Pose may help you release the tightness and improve your performance, while also relieving any pain in this area.
The hip area is also where we store sadness, anger, stress, and other negative feelings, making this pose beneficial to release those pent-up emotions. The stretch activates both the Root (Muladhara) and Sacral (Svadhistana) Chakra. In this manner, it brings a sense of inner power, stability, and balance; and may boost creativity.
Reclining Pigeon Pose Pose Benefits
- Stretches and opens the hips, glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. It also lengthens the IT band, so it may help protect the knees.
- Since it is a supine and restorative position, it may help in relaxation and stress reduction, especially when paired with conscious breathing.
- May prepare the body for the Pigeon Pose and other more advanced hip stretches.
- Helps release pent-up negative emotions that we physically store in the hips.
- Improves blood flow and circulation in the lower body.
- Drawing the legs towards the torso puts pressure on the abdomen. This stimulates the organs in the abdomen and may improve the function of the digestive system.
How To Do Reclining Pigeon Pose Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin lying down on your back, with knees bent and the feet on the floor, close to the hips.
2. Lift the right knee and bring it close to the chest. Then cross the right ankle over the left thigh, close to the knee. Flex the right foot to protect the knee.
3. If you already feel a deep enough stretch, you can remain here. For the full expression of the pose, thread your right hand through the legs and clasp the left hand behind the lifted thigh.
4. Pull the thigh towards your torso, but don’t force the stretch. Relax the shoulders to the ground, and make sure you maintain a deep breath, to allow your body to release tension. Gaze towards the ceiling.
5. Hold for a couple of breaths, and release by uncrossing the legs. Repeat on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Keep your shoulders on the ground and away from, your ears.
- Relax your thigh into your arms, instead of actively pulling it closer to your chest, especially if you feel you’re straining your arm muscles.
- Keep the neck and the head relaxed on the floor, and unclench the jaw.
- Keep the crossed ankle generously flexed to protect the knee and prevent injury.
- You can add a yoga block under your hips for more support.
Reclining Pigeon Pose Variations:
Reclining Pigeon Pose Variation: Seated Figure Four Stretch
To prepare for the full position, you can also try the seated variation of the Reclining Pigeon Pose. To do this modification, sit on the mat with knees bent and the soles of the feet on the floor.
Keep your hands on the floor and slightly behind your torso to stabilize your upper body. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh close to the knee, and keep the foot flexed, just as you would in the full expression of the pose.
Lean your chest towards the thighs to deepen the stretch. Stop as soon as you feel a stretching sensation. Hold for a couple of breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
Reclining Pigeon Pose Variation: Reclining Pigeon Pose Against A Wall
This variation is common in Restorative and Yin Yoga classes. If you also want to practice it in this manner, then hold the stretch for longer. In both mentioned styles, stretches are held for a minimum of 15 breaths, or at least 3 minutes.
To do this variation, lie on your back near a wall. Bend your knees and place your feet on the wall. Just as in the classic version, cross the right ankle over the left knee and keep the foot flexed. Press the left foot into the wall, and wrap your hands on the back of the left knee. You can also rest the arms beside you.
Slowly move your left foot down on the wall to deepen the stretch. As soon you feel a comfortable stretch, pause and hold for as long as comfortable. Release and repeat on the other side.
Reclining Pigeon Pose – Beginner Variation
If you want to make this pose passive or if you have very tight hips, try this variation. Lie on your back, with bent knees. Place the right foot on top of the left knee and flex the foot. Instead of pulling the left leg close to the chest, keep the left foot on the ground. Keep your arms down on the floor, at your sides.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Tension in the upper body. Relax your head, neck, and jaw while holding the pose.
Shoulders lifted. Keep the shoulders rooted in the ground and away from the ears.
Holding the pose while feeling pain. Although this is a beginner-friendly pose, it still challenges leg flexibility. Release the pose or opt for an easier variation if you feel sharp pain, tingling or numbness. These sensations are especially common in Yin Yoga, when you’re holding the poses for long periods of time.
Knee, Hip, or Hamstring Injury
If you have a knee, hip, hamstring, or low back injury, avoid this pose. You may be able to do a gentle variation, but make sure to do so with consent from your physician and under supervision from a yoga teacher. Also, don’t practice the pose if you have recently had surgery in the abdomen.
Pregnant women should refrain from doing this pose after the second trimester, as it places pressure on the abdomen. Those with sacroiliac issues should also avoid the pose.
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