Pigeon Pose  -Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Step by step

  • Start from all fours (on hands and knees), bring your right knee forward and place it more or less behind your right wrist. Place your ankle somewhere in front of your left hip. The more your lower leg is parallel with the front of the mat, the more intense the hip opener.
  • Slide your left leg back, straighten the knee and point the toes. Make sure your leg is behind your body and not drawing outwards and your heel is pointing up to the ceiling.
  • Draw your legs in towards each other to help keep your hips square.
  • Gently lower yourself down and use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.
  • On an inhale lift your upper body, come on your fingertips, hands shoulder width apart, draw your navel in, tailbone down and open your chest.
  • On an exhale walk your hands forward on the fingertips and lower your upper body to the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat.
  • Stay here for 5 breaths or longer and on an exhale try to release the tension in your right hip.
  • Balance your weight on both legs.
  • Come out of the pose by pushing back through the hands and lifting the hips, move the leg back into all fours.

Beginners tips

  • This can be a strong stretch on the outer hip. At first keep the right foot close to your left hip (top of the foot will be on the floor). If this feels ok you can bring the lower leg so that it is more parallel with the front of the mat. Be very mindful of your knees, you shouldn't feel any sensation in them.
  • If your forehead doesn't reach the mat you can make fists with your hands and stack them on each other then rest your forehead on your hands. 
  • You can also stay up higher, resting on your elbows or hands, just remember not to slump in the shoulders - keep the base of the neck long and relaxed.

Benefits

  • Opens the hips.
  • Uses core strength to keep your hips level.
  • Calms your mind.
  • Stretches the thighs, psoas and groins.

Watch out for

  • Your knees, if the knees hurt, bring the right foot closer to the left hip or even underneath the right hip. Or lie on your back instead drawing the lower leg in the same way, but without the pressure on the knees.
  • When the front lower leg is able to be more horizontally aligned with the front of the mat, make sure you keep the right foot flexed. Push out through the ball of the foot.
  • When you want to bring the lower leg more parallel to the front of the mat, don’t pull the foot forward, but tuck your back toes under, gently press into your hands and walk the back leg back keeping the front heel where it is.

Variations

  • If you’re comfortable in the pose, try to get your shin parallel to the front of the mat, so that your ankle is behind your left hand and the knee behind your right.
  • You can make this into a back bend instead of lowering the head to rest on the mat. Keep the arms as straight as you can and left the chest - watch out for any pinching in the lower back.
  • If you have knee injuries practice the supine version (see Watch out for) so that there is no weight in the leg but you can still get the same actions in the legs and hips.