Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
raja = king
kapota = pigeon or dove
Pigeon Yoga Pose is an elixir to relieving tension of the spine and back, vital to wellness of body and mind in yoga. This yoga exercise develops balance, lengthening and elongation into a curving backbend. It's name comes from the Sanskrit 'kapota', which is a puffed-chested dove or pigeon.
Stretches the thighs, groins and psoas, abdomen, chest and shoulders, and neck
Stimulates the abdominal organs
Opens the shoulders and chest
Tight hips or thighs
Performing the Asana
Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist; at the same time angle your right shin under your torso and bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. The outside of your right shin will now rest on the floor. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee and descending the front of the thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.
The right knee can angle slightly to the right, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your left leg. It should extend straight out of the hip (and not be angled off to the left), and rotated slightly inwardly, so its midline presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh for a few breaths. Stretch your arms forward.
Then slide your hands back toward the front shin and push your fingertips firmly to the floor. Lift your torso away from the thigh. Lengthen the lower back by pressing your tailbone down and forward; at the same time, and lift your pubis toward the navel. Roll your left hip point toward the right heel, and lengthen the left front groin.
If you can maintain the upright position of your pelvis without the support of your hands on the floor, bring your hands to the top rim of your pelvis. Push heavily down. Against this pressure, lift the lower rim of your rib cage. The back ribs should lift a little faster than the front. Without shortening the back of your neck, drop your head back. To lift your chest, push the top of your sternum (at the manubrium) straight up toward the ceiling.
Stay in this position for a minute. Then, with your hands back on the floor, carefully slide the left knee forward, then exhale and lift up and back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Take a few breaths, drop the knees to all-fours on another exhalation, and repeat with the legs reversed for the same length of time.
Modify Your Practice
It's often difficult to descend the outside of the front-leg hip all the way to the floor. Place a thickly folded blanket underneath the hip for support.
For the full pose, first perform the preliminary leg position. Then with your hands braced on the floor, bend the back knee and bring the foot as close to the top of your head as possible. Inhale, stretch the right arm upward; then exhale, bend the elbow, and reach back and grasp the inside of the left foot. After a few breaths, reach back with the left hand and grasp the outside of the foot. Draw the sole of the foot as close as possible to the crown of your head. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Then release the foot, lower the leg, perform step 5 to change the position of the legs and repeat on the second side for the same length of time.
Complimentary Yoga Poses
Baddha Konasana - Bound Angle Posture
Bhujangasana -Cobra Pose
Gomukhasana - Cow Face Posture
Setu Bandha - Bridge Asana
Supta Virasana - Reclining Hero Stretch
Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle Posture
Utthita Parsvakonasana - Full Side Angle Stretch
Trikonasana - Triangle
Virasana - Hero Pose
Vrksasana - Tree Balance
Tips for Beginners
At first many students who learn this pose aren't able to easily grasp the back foot directly with their hands. Take a strap with a buckle. Slip a small loop over the back foot--let's say the left foot is extended back--and tighten the strap around the ball of the foot. Make sure the buckle is against the sole of the foot. Perform the leg position, and lay the strap on the floor along side the left leg. Bend the left knee and grasp the strap with the left hand. Swing that arm up and over your head, then reach back with the right hand. Hold the strap in both hands, and carefully walk your hands down the strap toward the foot.
Deepen the Pose
The lift of the lower back ribs (as described in step 4 above) "triggers" the lift of the arms. From the lift of the ribs (away from the pelvis), push your elbows closer to the ceiling. Feel the length grow along the backs of the arms. Then pin the elbows to the ceiling and release or "hang" the rib cage toward the pelvis. Go on yo-yo-ing the ribs: relative to the pelvis the ribs lift, boosting the arms closer to the ceiling; relative to the arms the ribs drop, helping to open the armpits.
Your partner can help with the lift of the arms. Perform the pose to your capacity, whether your hands are grasping the foot or a strap. Have your partner stand behind you. He should press his hands against your outer upper arms, just above the shoulder, and lift the outer arms toward the elbows. Release your side ribs down, away from the arms. Keep the tops of your shoulders soft. The full pose, which is suitable for intermediate students, will be described in the Full Pose section below. First we'll practice the leg position only, which should be accessible to most experienced beginners.