How to Do One-Legged King Pigeon Pose in Yoga (Guide to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

The One-Legged King Pigeon Pose is a part of an advanced series of poses designed to increase flexibility in the hips.

The classic Pigeon pose and this variation are not exactly the same. The main difference is the back leg- it’s extended on the floor in classic Pigeon and bent in One-Legged King Pigeon pose. The full pose is also a backbend, requiring advanced flexibility in the upper body.

Regardless of which variation is available to you, you can expect a deep hip stretch. Hips are the center of our body, and when they’re tight, they can reduce the range of motion of our entire lower body. Dedicated work on increasing mobility in this area will help you feel more comfortable in other poses, long meditation, and everyday life.

What makes this pose unique compared with other poses is that it stretches both the internal and external areas of the hips. That makes it a fantastic posture to include in your everyday practice.

“I tried many different activities in my life. From martial arts, over gym training, to parkour – most of my trainers included the Pigeon pose in their stretching routine. And when I teach yoga to others – I see even those with no experience enjoy it immensely, especially the toned-down and simpler variations.”, says Yoga Answered contributor Sara Popovic. “And that’s not surprising – this pose is a true classic. It stretches the entire hips – the area that’s tight for most of us.”

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Pose Type: Hip-Opening Yoga Poses, Yoga Backbend Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner to Advanced. Note: The difficulty level depends on the variation of the pose. The first stages of Pigeon are appropriate for beginner-to-intermediate students, and the full variation is an intense hip stretch and backbend appropriate only for advanced practitioners.
Targets: Hips, glutes, low back, triceps, spine
Benefits: This pose stretches the hip muscles, including glutes, the psoas, and the piriformis (which often causes sciatica pain). It also stretches the thighs and groins. The deeper version of the pose, which involves a backend, also provides a deep stretch to the chest and shoulders and stimulates abdominal organs. In a spiritual sense, it’s associated with the Second Chakra, responsible for creativity, fertility, and sexual expression.
Preparatory Poses: Bound Angle pose, Warrior 2 pose, Seated Cradle pose, Seated Forward Bend pose, Cat pose, Cow pose.

How to Do One-Legged King Pigeon Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Start in the tabletop position, with legs hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Step the right leg forward and place the knee on the floor, behind the right hand. Bend the leg and place the shin on the floor. The shin should be as perpendicular to your body as possible (it’s completely normal if your foot is close to the left leg when you’re just starting).
  3. Slide the left leg back, straightening at the knee and resting the top of the thigh and the foot on the floor. Place your right buttock to the floor.
  4. Place the palms on the floor and lift your torso, elongating the spine. Open your shoulders and chest.
  5. Make sure the hips are neutral, draw the right side forward if it moved to the back. If you want to practice the resting pigeon, fold your torso forward over the right leg, and stretch your hands in front of you.
  6. You can remain in this pose, or advance to the full expression.
  7. For the full one-legged king pigeon, keep your upper body upright and bend the left knee. Grab the left big toe with your left hand, still keeping the hips square.
  8. Roll the left shoulder back so the elbow points toward the ceiling, and pull the foot close to the head.
  9. Regardless of the variation, hold the pose for a couple of breaths.
  10. Release the pose slowly and carefully, and return to the tabletop. Repeat on the other side.

Beginner’s Tip

To make sure you’re reaping the full benefit of the pose, make sure you’re maintaining proper alignment. Your hips should always be square, and the front foot should be flexed to protect the knee. With time, you’ll be able to move the shin forward to be parallel to the mat, but that’s not necessary to feel the benefit of the pose. If the hip of the bent leg doesn’t touch the floor, place a folded blanket or a block beneath. If you’re doing the full expression of the pose and can’t grasp the back foot with your hand, try looping the strap over the sole of the back foot and holding it instead of the big toe at a comfortable length.

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