The Perfect Stretch: A Head to Hip Fix with the Pigeon Pose

“Yoga heals, nourishes, and challenges us. The practice infiltrates every corner of our lives.” ~ Valerie Jermijenko, How We Live Our Yoga

Your thoughts and emotions, many of which are driven by subconscious beliefs and life experiences, are a powerful force that can degenerate your health. Each emotion has its own vibratory signature, and when intense emotions are felt, they can become trapped in your body, much like a ball of energy.

Yoga aids in releasing these trapped emotions through 84,00,000 poses, out of which the One-legged Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Kapotasana is a significant one.

yoga-pigeon-pose-guide

I have seen many students feeling an upsurge of energy and a release from a burden they were holding on to, while performing this pose. Sometimes, they even spend extra time doing Pigeon pose as it gives a sense of freedom to the mind and body.

Pigeon pose is anatomically challenging, but a blessing for the mind and body. It activates the second chakra, Sacral Chakra – the emotional bank of the human body – releasing stuck emotions, blockages along with working deeply on the sympathetic nervous system of the body.

Derived from Sanskrit word, ‘Kapot’ meaning Pigeon, this asana also got its name from the great master, Kapota, whose laurels are spoken off in ancient Indian texts, Mahabharata and Kalika Purana. His unmatched strength, vigour, spiritual presence and vitality made him a revered saint and a magnanimous soul.

Pigeon Pose with Variations for the Beginners

Engaging with the hip rotators (the buttocks) and hip flexors (muscle from the pelvis to thigh), this pose loosens tight hips, relaxes the lower back, and also relaxes the head. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform Pigeon pose, its variations and the benefits one can derive from it:

Start with a warm up sequence and then come in a downward dog position. Gently lift your right leg and place in a 60 degree angle in front of your body, making a proud pigeon pose (as shown in the image below). Make sure the stretched left leg’s knee is facing the floor and not sideways.
Pigeon-pose-arms-extended
Beginners can use a yoga block/blanket/bolster to fill the gap between pelvis and the floor. Press your pelvis down and raise your hands in Namaste mudra at the top of the head or in front of your chest. Stay here for a few breaths, 5 to 7 deep breaths, and focus on the heart chakra.

In order to feel more comfortable in the pose, follow the Sleepy pigeon variation (shown below) in the same position. Do a forward bend. First place your elbows on the floor and straighten your back, check if you can go further.
half-pigeon-eka-pada-rajakapotasana
If this feels comfortable then gradually move forward by flattening your chest on the floor, lying face down. Stretch the forearms straight and keep it pressed on the floor. Stay here for a few breaths. This position activates your third eye chakra.

Moving further, gently roll up and come back to the proud pigeon pose once again. Bend the left leg up and stretch the left hand to grab the toe of the left knee. Use a yoga block in the gap between the floor and pelvis, and stay in the centre. See the image on the left side.
mermaid-pose
Now take a yoga belt (preferred) or a long cloth and wrap it around the left high instep area. Hold the other end of the belt with both hands, as depicted in the picture above right side. Make sure there is only a gentle & slow pull. Stay in this pose for a few breaths and feel the hip moving.

Slide your left foot along the inside of your left forearm until you can hold it in your elbow crease and interlace left and right hand making the mermaid pose. Stay here for a few breaths. The next step to mermaid pose can take a while, so keep practicing this for a few days, weeks or months depending upon your comfort.
variations-pigeon-pose
Only once you are totally at ease in mermaid pose, can you move on to try the full one-legged pigeon pose. (This is an intense backbend, and should only be attempted by very experienced practitioners. Pigeon Pose and Mermaid Pose are more moderate versions of the pose.)

Come in the mermaid pose position, and grab the mount of the flexed left foot and bring your left hand under your foot and try to grab onto your toes. This is the tricky part. You need to flip your left elbow up to the ceiling, so your toes are pointing straight up and your fingers are pointing down. Then arch your head back and reach your right hand over your head to hold onto your left toes. If it’s easy, touch the top of your head to your foot.
variations-pigeon-pose
Stay here for at least five breaths. Press your pelvis down at all times to create space. Watch this video for further clarification –

Benefits of One-legged Pigeon Pose

  • It helps open up the hips and adds more flexibility to the hip region. It is also known to relieve the body of stress and anxiety.
  • Works with the autonomous system, Pigeon pose acts on the Vagus nerve, which is the most significant nerve that aids in vital acts like breathing, speech, sweating, connecting brain & food functions, regulating heartbeat etc.
  • Kapotasana regulates energy by directing it from the thighs to deep abdomen centre. This further activates the navel centre and helps us bear higher energy level, activation of solar plexus chakra, illuminate & heal the abdominal organs, maintain good health of the ovaries & testes, etc.
  • Advanced version opens your chest area, giving relief to rounded shoulders, strengthening pectoral minor, serratus anterior muscle, back muscles and shoulder blades.
  • Since the asana works on the pelvis region, it is a boon for women. It cleanses and regulates the menstruation cycle, increases circulation to urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.
  • May relieve sciatic nerve tension and ease chronic low back pain.
  • Stretches the thighs, groins and psoas, abdomen, chest and shoulders, and neck.

Contraindications

    Do not practice this pose if you have a:

  • Knee injury
  • Back Injury
  • Chronic sacroiliac injury
  • Shoulder, neck or sacrum injury
  • Pregnant women should keep their torso straight and facing forward & also consult a professional before performing Pigeon pose.

Its important that all the postures, especially in case of complex poses, the practitioner first weighs her/his ability to balance & accept their range of movement and only then perform these poses. Variations are not for the weak, they act as milestones on the way to the final goal. Cherish them and ensure safety first.

Image Source

Yoga art
Pigeon pose
Sleepy pigeon pose
King Pigeon pose
Yoga art

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