The Pigeon Pose, also known as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, is a deep hip opener and forward bend in yoga that offers numerous benefits.
The advanced pose is a part of many yoga styles, including Ashtanga and Vinyasa. It is known for its ability to open the hip joint, lengthen the hip flexors, and increase the range of motion in the femur in the hip socket.
The Pigeon Pose starts from a Downward-Facing Dog or all fours. The practitioner then brings one knee forward and out to the side, with the other leg extended straight behind.
The pose can be modified to suit different levels of flexibility, and it’s common to use props like blocks or bolsters for support.
|Sanskrit Name and Pronunciation
|Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (EH-ka PAH-da RAH-ja-kah-poh-TAHS-ah-nah)
How to Do the Pigeon Pose
- Start in a Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) with your feet hip and your hands shoulder distance apart.
- Shift your weight onto your right hand and lift your left leg off the ground.
- Bend your left knee and bring it toward your left wrist, placing it on the ground. Your left ankle should be in front of your right hip.
- Slide your right leg back, straightening the knee and pointing the toes. Your heel should be pointing up towards the sky.
- Lower your hips towards the ground. If your hips don’t touch the ground, you can place a yoga block or blanket under your left hip for support.
- Keep your chest lifted and your hands resting on the ground on either side of your leg.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, then lift your hips and slide your left leg back to return to Downward-Facing Dog.
- Repeat the pose on the right leg.
|Deltoids, Rotator Cuffs, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Major, Serratus Anterior
|Rectus Abdominis, Obliques
|Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids
|Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus
|Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, Adductors
While there are many research-backed mental and physical benefits of yoga, there are few — if any — official studies on the pigeon pose. However, it’s generally believed that practicing the pigeon pose provides several health benefits.
The Pigeon pose requires a combination of hip, thigh, and groin flexibility. Practicing this pose can increase flexibility in these areas over time.
The Pigeon pose requires a significant amount of lower body and core strength to hold the pose. Practicing this pose can help build strength in the legs, hips, and core muscles.
The Pigeon pose involves balancing on one leg and one arm, which can help improve balance and coordination.
Opens the Hips and Groin
The deep stretch aspect of this pose helps to open the hips and groin, which can help improve posture and alleviate lower back pain.
The Pigeon pose requires focus, balance, and strength, which can help calm the mind and promote relaxation. It is also known to relieve stress and anxiety.
Drawbacks and Risks
Practicing the Pigeon Pose also comes with its own set of potential risks and drawbacks, which include potential injuries to the:
Hips. The Pigeon Pose requires significant flexibility in the hips. If the hips are not flexible enough or not aligned properly, there is a risk of injury to the muscles and ligaments in the hip area.
Knees. The Pigeon Pose involves bending one leg at a sharp angle. If the knee is not aligned properly, there is a risk of strain or injury to the knee joint.
Lower Back. The forward bend aspect of the Pigeon Pose can strain the lower back if not performed with proper alignment. It’s important to keep the core engaged and the lower back extended rather than rounded to avoid strain on the lower back.
Ankles. The Pigeon Pose involves flexing one foot while the other leg is extended. If the ankle is not aligned properly, there is a risk of strain or injury to the ankle joint.
Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when practicing the Pigeon pose.
- Not Warming Up. It’s crucial to warm up before attempting the Pigeon pose. This can include yoga practices such as sun salutations, downward-facing dogs, and other poses that help warm the hips, thighs, and lower back muscles.
- Forcing the Hip Down. In the Pigeon pose, keeping the hips square and level is important. Forcing the hip of the bent leg down can lead to strain or injury. Instead, use a yoga block or folded blanket under the hip for support.
- Twisting the Back Foot. The back foot should be pointing straight back, not twisted to one side. Twisting the foot can lead to misalignment and potential strain in the knee and hip.
- Ignoring the Back Leg. While the Pigeon pose often focuses on the front leg and hip, it’s important not to ignore the back leg. It should be extended straight behind you and not falling to one side.
- Not Using Props. If you’re new to the Pigeon pose or have limited flexibility, using props such as blocks or blankets to support the body and help you find proper alignment can be helpful.
- Overarching the Lower Back. Keeping the lower back long and neutral in the Pigeon pose is important. Overarching can put unnecessary strain on the lower back and spine. Instead, focus on lengthening the spine and keeping the core engaged.
Modifications and Variations
If you’re new to the Pigeon Pose or have limited flexibility or strength, several modifications can help you build up to the full expression of the pose. Here are some modifications to try:
If you’re having trouble reaching your foot or maintaining balance, you can use props such as blocks or blankets to support your body and help you find proper alignment.
Place the blocks or blankets under your hip or hands to help lift your body off the ground and provide stability.
Practice on Your Knees
If you find it difficult to hold the Pigeon Pose, try practicing on your knees.
Start in a tabletop position, then slide one knee towards your hand and extend the other leg back. This modification can help you build strength and flexibility in the pose.
Practice with a Wall
If you’re having trouble finding balance in the Pigeon Pose, try practicing with a wall for support. Place your hands on the wall and slide one leg back, bending the knee and placing the foot on the wall.
This modification can help you find stability and build confidence in the pose.
Practice the Downward-Facing Dog Pose
This pose can help stretch and strengthen the hip muscles, preparing you for the Pigeon Pose. From a Downward-Facing Dog, you can easily transition into a Pigeon Pose by bringing one leg forward and bending the knee. This will also help you to gradually increase your flexibility and strength.