Swan Pose, Kapotasana, (KAH-POH-TAHS-ANNA))
kapo (pigeon) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Pigeon Pose
Release the deep tissues of the hips and lower back in this relaxing Yin Yoga Pose.
Swan Pose Fundamentals
Feel a deep release in the hips and lower back, and learn to surrender in this Yin Yoga version of Pigeon Pose.
Although the shape looks the same, Yin teachers always change the name of the pose to highlight the difference in intention. In classic, dynamic yoga, Pigeon Pose is practiced to work on the muscles – and connect breath to movement. In Yin Yoga, we are targeting the deeper tissues – tendons, ligaments, fascia, and joints, and we are learning to find stillness.
If you want to practice Swan Pose, rather than Pigeon, there are several changes you will make. First, you will approach the pose more passively and gently – allowing gravity to do most of the work for you.
Following the main principles of Yin Yoga – you will first find an appropriate edge. This is a place where you feel a stretching sensation, but no pain. Since you are practicing with cold muscles, you will naturally go less deep than you would in a Vinyasa class.After you’ve found your edge – you will resolve to be completely still and hold the pose for 3 to 5 minutes. Holding a pose for more than 2 minutes without movement begins to release the deeper tissues.
If you go too far – it will be difficult to be still and to hold the pose long enough, which is why it’s important to use props or a modification that allows you to remain in the pose. As you hold the pose, your body will release and open deeper, but that should happen naturally, with no effort.
Swan Pose & Energetics
This pose works on the liver meridian, which may help release anger or resentment; the kidney meridian where we store emotions of fear and insecurity; the spleen and stomach, which will aid to reduce our worries.
The work on hips always also brings a release of emotions, strengthening the deep inner work that happens in this pose. Knowing that, make sure you practice with compassion towards yourself, allowing any emotion that arises to be released.
Swan Pose Benefits
- Opens and lengthens the deeper tissues in the hips and the lower back.
- Aids in overcoming muscle stiffness and weakness.
- Stimulating the Liver and Gallbladder meridian, it may aid in improving vision and preventing vertigo.
- Improves the health of the lumbar spine, preventing injury in this area and reducing pain.
- Working on the kidney, liver, lung, and spleen meridian lines aids to release negative emotions, particularly fear, worry, insecurity, and anger.
How to Do Swan Pose: Step-By-Step
1. Begin on all fours in Table Top Position.
2. Move your right knee forward, behind the right wrist. Place the right ankle in front of the left hip, wherever it naturally falls. Flex the feet.
3. Tuck your left toes, and slide your foot back, to extend the leg. The toes should point to the back, and the leg should be in line with your body.
4. Keep your arms on the floor, but engage the muscles only as much as you need to keep you up – you don’t need to push too hard.
5. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes. Release, take a moment in Child’s Pose, then repeat on the other side.
Tips and Tricks
- Keep the front foot flexed to protect the knee.
- Keep the arms straight, or if that’s too difficult, come down on your elbows.
- If your hip is off the ground, place a folded blanket under it for support. This allows the muscles to relax.
- Your body is different every day – so approach the pose with a fresh mind every time you practice. It’s normal not to be able to go as deep in every class.
- If you aren’t able to be still or hold for time, lessen the intensity of the pose and use props.
- Except for supporting the hips, you can also place a bolster or blocks under your forearms to make the pose easier to hold. You can also place a folded blanket under the back knee.
Swan Pose Variation
Swan Pose Variation: Seated Swan Pose
This variation is great for those who feel knee discomfort in Swan Pose.
Begin in Staff Pose, and place the right ankle above the left knee. Then bend the left knee, walking the foot towards your hips.
Open the chest and hinge at the hips to maintain a long spine. Keep your arms on the floor, slightly behind your torso. Once you found an appropriate depth, try to be still and hold for at least 2 minutes.
Swan Pose Variation: Sleeping Swan
Sleeping Swan is a progression to Swan, and can be practiced on its own or after Swan Pose.
From Swan Pose, move onto your elbows and release your body down on top of the right leg. You can place a bolster or a pillow under your torso and head for support.
Swan Pose Variation: Eye Of The Needle Pose
If Swan and Sleeping Swan are difficult, and you aren’t able to relax in Seated Swan – you can also perform the Eye-of-the-Needle Pose. It is a good option for anyone who feels knee discomfort in Swan Pose.
Begin lying on your back and bend the knees. Place the left ankle over the right knee. If you already feel a sensation, remain here.
If you want to go further, thread your left hand between your legs, and clasp it with the right behind the right thigh. Then use your arms to move the knee closer to your torso. Stop when you feel a pull, and hold for 2 to 5 minutes.
Precautions and Contraindications
Practicing With Knee Discomfort. If your knees hurt in Swan Pose, release it immediately. Try practicing with props, and if you still feel pain, replace the pose with a variation like the Seated Swan or Eye of The Needle pose as described above.
Going Too Far Too Soon. Instead of going to your maximum edge right away, approach the pose slowly. Gently go deeper with time – that allows your muscles to relax, which is important to avoid injury and target the deeper tissues.
Collapsing onto one side of the hip. Aim to keep your hips square. If that’s difficult, place a folded blanket under the front thigh or the back hip.
Be careful with the pose if you have any knee or hip issues – it may be best to avoid it in case of recent injury or surgery in these areas.
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