Uta’s Insights: Yoga Pose of the Week — 10. A Modified Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose — Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
A modified Eka Pada Rajakapotasana [eka = one, pada = foot, raja = king, kapota = pigeon] is a wonderful hip opener. It focuses on the front leg stretching gluteus and upper hamstring muscles in external rotation and increasing the external range of motion of the femur. At the same time it supports stretching the hip flexors of the back leg.
This asana opens your chest and helps to increase your lung capacity, and for these reasons this pose is especially beneficial for runners. My fellow athletes from Kenya enjoy practicing the modified Pigeon during our yoga program. They especially like to feel the hip flexor, gluteus, and hamstring muscles stretch.
We like to exercise this pose in conjunction with the Downward Facing Dog, while moving carefully into the Pigeon pose.
How to practice a modification of the Pigeon pose:
- Start in Downward-Facing Dog pose. Inhale while you slowly move your left leg forward and place it with knee and foot on the mat, while the knee is in front of your chest.
- Make sure your knee is indeed placed very closely to your chest. When you exhale lower your torso slowly towards the mat. Also, shift your weight so your left buttock is moving towards the mat as well. You will feel your upper hamstrings and gluteus muscles stretching.
To settle further into Pigeon pose, slowly slide your right leg back while your knee should be straightened and touching the mat. Your hips are square and facing forward.
- Place your hands in front of you on the floor and your forehead on your hands (see photo 1). Rest in this position for a while. Now, gently move your upper body to the right and place your head on your hands again (see photo 2). Rest in this position as well.
- Slowly move back into the position shown in photo 1. Now, inhale and lift your upper body up while your left arm is supporting you. You can follow this transition in the photo at the very beginning of this article. There I show you how my left arm is stabilizing my upper body while my left knee is helping me to keep my balance in this pose.
Grab your right ankle with your right hand and gently move your foot towards your right buttock. Feel the hip-flexor stretch. If you want to intensify the stretch, gently lead your right heel further towards your buttock. Please be extra careful not to hurt yourself!
- To move out of the modified Pigeon pose, lower your right leg towards the mat. Place your right hand on the floor at the same height as the left hand, tuck the toes of your right foot under and push your body up with your toes and both hands while moving your left leg, buttock, and upper body back — all together into Downward-Facing Dog pose.
I hope you will enjoy practicing this advanced asana as part of your yoga program.