Sleeping Swan Pose (Adho Mukha Kapotasana)

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Sleeping Swan Pose, Adho Mukha Kapotasana

adho (down) + mukha (face) + kapota (pigeon) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Reclined Pigeon

Pose Type: Restorative, Stretching, Stress Relief

Difficulty: Beginner

a woman wearing black yoga clothes in sleeping swan pose

Let go, and surrender your body to the Earth in this comforting, restorative pose.

Shoulder-Pressing Pose Fundamentals

Sleeping Swan is a passive hip-opening asana from Yin Yoga. This pose is basically the same as Sleeping Pigeon – one leg reaches straight back and the other is bent in front of the body, and the torso is folded on top of the front leg.

The reason for the name change is that this pose is performed differently in Yin Yoga.

Although it is visually the same as Sleeping Pigeon, the fact that you are practicing in a yin style almost completely changes the intention and the benefit of the asana.

In Yin Yoga, you’ll hold this asana completely still for between 3 and 5 minutes on each side. You will go less deep than you would in an active yoga class, so you can allow the body to completely relax.

When the muscles become completely passive and when you are still, the stretch can target the deeper parts of the body – tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues.

You will feel a deep release in the hips and the lower back, almost as if you had a good massage.

Yin yoga is also practiced to target the meridians, and Sleeping Swan Pose stimulates the kidney, liver, stomach gall bladder, and spleen meridians.

It unblocks these meridians, allowing Prana – or Qi – to flow freely and reach all the parts of your body for greater overall health.

If you’re ready to practice Sleeping Swan – just make sure you’re doing it with the right intention.

Don’t go too far too fast. Calm your mind, steady your breath, take it slow, and surrender to gravity – it is a beautiful opportunity to practice awareness and non-violence towards yourself.

Sleeping Swan Pose Benefits

  • Improves hip and lumbar spine flexibility, which also relieves tension and pain in these areas. 
  • We tend to hold a lot of tension in the hips, and when our meridians are blocked, we don’t express our emotions freely. By releasing this stiffness, Sleeping Swan Pose also helps release negative emotions such as grief and anger.  
  • Strengthens the ankles and improves mobility in the toes
  • Teaches us to slow down our breathing and become more aware of our body and present in our practice. 

How To Do Sleeping Swan Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Begin on all fours, in Tabletop position. Bring the left knee toward the left elbow, open it to the side, and place the foot on the mat, behind the right hand.
  2. Extend the right leg behind your back and place the hip on the mat.
  3. At this point, you can see if you want to use any props to support you, for example, a cushion below your hip.
  4. When you’re ready, fold your torso forward, and try to bring your forehead to the ground. 
  5. Hold the asana for between 3 and 5 minutes. 
  6. Slowly release and repeat for the same amount of time on the other side. 
an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes in sleeping swan pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • Keep the front foot flexed to protect the knee.
  • Shift the weight back into the hips, rather than placing all the weight on the front thigh.
  • In Yin Yoga, props are used almost always, regardless of how experienced you are. They make the practice more effective, so use them generously. 
  • If you want to feel a deeper stretch, you can bring the front foot forward, closer to the palm. 
  • Lying completely down on the floor is the most relaxing version of the pose, and remaining on the elbows will give you a deeper stretch. Choose the one that better fits your needs and intention for the practice. 
  • Don’t force your edge – come to it gradually. But when you do find it – resolve to be still for at least 3 minutes. 
  • You should feel a slight stretching sensation but absolutely no pain such as pinching, tingling, sharp, stabbing, or numbing. If you feel pain, release the pose immediately or move to a less deep version. 

Sleeping Swan Pose Variations:

Swan Pose

woman doing a swan pose (Ardha Kapotasana)

Sleeping Swan Pose is the progression of Swan Pose, so you can begin with that pose first to prep the body, or you can use it to completely replace Sleeping Swan.

For Swan Pose, take up the same position with your legs, but your upper body stays up and your hands on the floor – you’re not folding over the leg.

This increases the stretch of your spine. It is sometimes difficult to hold this asana for time if you lack strength in your arms, so you can lower to your elbows. 

With Props

Always have props by your side when you practice Yin Yoga – they are a game changer. 

In Sleeping Swan, you can use props in several ways. 

If your back hip is off the ground, or you are leaning to one side, you can place a blanket, block, or other support under the hip. This allows the leg muscles to relax – otherwise, if the hip is up the leg needs to support it and the muscle can’t be passive.

If folding to the floor is too deep, place a large pillow or a bolster under your chest, or a block under the forehead. 

Also, you can cushion the back knee with a blanket if you feel too much pressure on the knee. 

Eye of The Needle

woman wearing black yoga outfit does a Reclining Pigeon Pose

If you’d like to replace this asana altogether because it causes discomfort, you can perform the reclined version, which is known in Yin Yoga as the Eye Of The Needle Pose.

This pose is done lying on your back, and you can perform all the same steps as in our Reclined Pigeon Pose article, only strive to hold the asana for longer, at least 3 minutes. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Too much pressure on the knee. Often times, beginners will place too much weight and pressure on the back knee. Avoid this by tucking the toes of the back foot, lifting the knee off the ground, and moving the hips slightly forward. Then bring the leg down, so it touches the floor slightly above the knee instead of directly on the knee cap. 

Injuries and Conditions

Avoid the pose or be extra careful if you have bad knees – move the pressure towards the hip. If you are not sure and have a serious injury, it might be best to avoid this pose altogether and do an alternative like Eye Of The Needle instead.

Related Poses

Fire Log Pose

Pigeon Pose 

Swan Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Swan Pose

Easy Pose

Counter Poses:

Bound Angle Pose

Bridge Pose

Side Reclining Leg Lift

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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