How to – Pigeon Pose

The Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Kapotasana) has the unfortunate stigma as one of the most fearsome and challenging poses in yoga. Created to help loosen your hip flexors, the pigeon pose can also help loosen tension in the shoulders and chest area.

According to yoga blogger and leader Hope Zvara, “Pigeon [pose] is about unlocking our deepest fears, traumas and anxieties, a pose that releases the pressures put on our lower two chakras...It’s our grounding potential: our needs for survival, intimacy, trust and stability reside here.”

How can you master the pigeon pose and what are the benefits of incorporating this pose into your yoga workout? We explore below.

Benefits of the Pigeon Pose

As we mentioned above, the pigeon pose is great for stretching out your hip flexors, thighs, groin and abdomen. Though cardio exercises and sports are great for building strength in that area, they are not as helpful when it comes to stretching and can actually make the hips feel tighter. Plus sitting down for long periods of time also can tighten up your hip muscles and add stress to that region.

In addition, the pigeon pose can help stimulate the abdominal organs, which helps with digestion as well as relieve fatigue and anxiety. When you have successfully mastered the pose, you’ll not only increase your range of motion with your hips, but better prep your body for backbends as well as seated yoga postures.

Before you take on the pigeon pose, keep in mind the limits and ranges of your body. This pose is not ideal for people with chronic knee, sacroiliac or ankle injuries.

How to—Pigeon Pose (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose)

Begin by starting in the downward dog pose, with your arms and hands in front of your head, feet touching the mat and your head facing down towards the mat. You can also start on all fours in the table pose.

Next, extend your right leg behind you slowly, then bring the leg towards your body. Slide the leg forward so your right foot is in front of your left knee. Your right ankle should be near your left wrist with your right shin underneath your torso. Your right shin should be resting on the floor with the right foot flexed to help protect your knee. If you’re new to this pose, bend the right knee as much as possible without it feeling tight or tense. More practice will help increase your flexibility.

Now, with your left leg behind you, straighten the leg directly behind you and have the front of the thigh sit on the mat. Have your toes and the top of your foot touch the mat. Your back thigh should be rotating inward and your right heel should be in front of your left hip.

Next, place your hands on either side of your legs, palms touching the mat. Take a breath and extend your fingertips and try to stretch your spine out. Press your tailbone down and forward.

Balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips and press down on your toes and top of your back foot. Hold for one minute or however long you feel comfortable.

To release the pose, untuck your right foot and extend it towards your left foot, lift your back knee off of the mat and return to the table or downward dog pose. You can then alternate sides.

How to—Sleeping Pigeon Pose

This is a variation of the pigeon pose that again helps with flexibility and rotation in your hips. Start on all fours in the table pose, with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Repeat the steps above so you are in the traditional pigeon pose.

Next, exhale and lay your torso over your right leg. Make sure you are getting the stretch in your hips but also maintaining comfort. Place your hands in front of your body with your fingers outstretched. Head should be facing the floor and work to extend your spine both downward and forward. Hold this pose for 4 to 5 breaths.

To release the pose, walk your hands/arms towards your torso while lifting your head and straightening your back. Untuck your right foot and extend it towards your left foot, lift your back knee off of the mat and return to the table or downward dog pose. You can then alternate sides.

Key Tips to Remember:

  • Make sure you have the right yoga clothes on before you start
  • Practice stretching your hips every day.
  • Always breathe evenly as you go through the steps.
  • Maintain equal weight in both hips when doing the pose.
  • Have a calm and peaceful mind when navigating the pose.
  • Keep your back thigh internally rotated.
  • Remember to be patient and like with other yoga poses, your flexibility will increase and you’ll be able to get more out of the pose with practice.
Photos by @asanavanessa