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 sensation may be in the hip / glutes.
  • Slide your left leg back, straighten the knee and point the toes. Make sure the leg is behind your body, 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.
  • Inhale and lift your upper body, coming onto your fingertips, hands shoulder width apart. Draw your navel in, tailbone down and lift your chest.
  • As you exhale, walk your hands forward on the fingertips and lower your upper body towards the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat.
  • Stay here for 5 breaths or longer, releasing any tension or tightness you feel in the right hip with deep long exhalations. 
  • Come out of the pose by pushing back through the hands and lifting the hips, move the front leg back into an all fours position.

Beginners tips

  • This can be a strong stretch for the outer hip. At first, keep the right foot close to your left hip (the top of the foot will be on the floor). If this feels okay, 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 pain in them.
  • If your forehead doesn't reach the mat you can make fists with your hands and stack them on top of 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 with the legs in a figure 4 position (Thread the Needle pose) and your fingertips clasped at the back of the thigh or on top of the shin.
  • If the front lower leg 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, you could start to move the front 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 the pose into a backbend, instead of lowering the head to rest on the mat. Keep the arms as straight as you can and lift the chest - watch out for any pinching in the lower back.
  • If you have knee injuries, practise the supine 'Threading the Needle' version (see 'Watch out for') so that there is no weight on the leg but you still get the same actions in the legs and hips.