Pigeon Pose  -Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Step by step

  • From all fours, bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist. Depending on your body it may be just behind your wrist or to the outer or the inner edge of it. 
  • Experiment with what feels right for you, giving you a stretch on your outer hip without any discomfort in your knee. 
  • Your right ankle will be somewhere in front of your left hip. 
  • Slide your left leg back and point your toes, your heel is pointing up to the ceiling.
  • Scissor your hips together, by drawing your legs in towards each other. Use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.
  • As you inhale, come onto your fingertips, lengthen your spine, draw your navel in and open your chest.
  • As you exhale, walk your hands forward and lower your upper body towards the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat.
  • Stay for 5 breaths or longer. 
  • On each exhalation, try to release the tension in your right hip.
  • To come out of the pose, push back through the hands, lift your hips and move your leg back into all fours. Repeat on the other side.

Beginners tips

  • This can be an intense stretch on the outer hip. Keep your right foot close to your left hip to start with. The more your shin is parallel with the front of the mat, the more intense the hip opener will be.
  • 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, or use a block.
  • 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 soft.
  • Try the Figure Four variation, described below.

Benefits

  • Increases hip mobility. 
  • Uses core strength to keep your hips level.
  • Calms your mind.
  • Targets the psoas muscle and hip flexors.

Watch out for

  • Be very mindful of your knees, you shouldn't feel any sensation in them. If the knees hurt, bring the right foot closer to the left hip or even underneath the right hip.
  • Keep the right foot flexed. Push out through the ball of the foot.
  • If you have any knee injuries or discomfort, try the Figure Four version described below or substitute with an alternative pose.

Variations

  • You can make this into a back bend instead of lowering the head to rest on the mat. Keep the arms straight and lift the chest.
  • Try the Figure Four version. Sit with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms behind you for support. Bring your right ankle over your left knee, keeping the foot flex. Walk your left foot closer to your hip to increase the stretch.
  • You can also do Figure four lying on your back. Cross your right ankle over left knee and take hold of the back of your left thigh, drawing it towards you. Change sides.