Eka pada rajakapotasana (Eh-kah PAH-dah rah-JAH-cop-oh-TAHS-anna), also known as the pigeon or one-legged pigeon pose, is a backbend that can relieve nerve tension and chronic pain while increasing circulation and controlling desires. Whichever version of pigeon you may choose to try, remember to maintain some awareness on your breathing.
- Eka = one
- Pada = foot
- Raja = king
- Kapota = pigeon, or dove
- Asana = pose
This hip-opening backbend stretches the hips, back, and shoulders. As with any pose, please exercise caution as you explore new variations and listen to your body’s limits.
- Opens hip flexor muscles (psoas, rectus femoris) and groin muscles.
- Opens hip rotator muscles (gluteus medius and minimus).
- Relieves sciatic nerve tension and ease chronic low back pain.
- Increases circulation to urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.
- Thought to control sexual desire.
Mudra: Joint Mudra
Incorporate the simple joint mudra into your pigeon pose as it is believed to be useful in relieving pain and providing energy for longevity. This mudra is often used for daily meditations and can be done as needed, up to four times each day.
How to: While in your asana, take your right hand and fold the thumb and ring finger together. Then, take your left hand and fold the thumb and middle finger together.
The pigeon pose helps eliminate pain and nervous tension, bringing about a sense of serenity and peace and calming our disruptive desires. The Kali mantra can be regularly chanted to continue to unlock long-term benefits beyond this pose.
“Kali Raat Ek Nadi Veer
Saat Smudar Ka Jagmag Teer
Kamakhya Rani Ka Gauri Pinda
Bhairavnath Haro Sabh Peera
Shabad Sancha Pind Kancha
Furo Mantra Ishwarovacha”
- Bound-angle pose | Baddha konasana
- Cobra pose | Bhujangasana
- Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana
- Cow face pose | Gomukhasana
- Reclining hero pose | Supta Virasana
- Extended side angle pose | Utthita Parsvakonasana
- Extended triangle pose | Utthita Trikonasana
Contraindications and Cautions:
Please check with a doctor before performing this pose if you have any of the following conditions:
- Knee injury, meniscus or ligament injury.
- Sacroiliac joint injury: the opposing action of the legs in this pose may increase strain across the joint.
- History of shoulder dislocation: do not progress to holding the top of the foot behind the back in the pigeon variations and use caution reaching behind you for the foot.
- Lower back pain – If at any point you feel low back pain in the pose, back off, draw your low belly in and lengthen through your spine to avoid compression. A folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under the front thigh will add support and may relieve pain. Do not continue in pain.
- Knee position – The knee is a hinge joint (open-close) and therefore should not be challenged from side to side. In pigeon pose the weight of the body and the pressure of the floor challenge the knee joint on either side. It is important to keep the ankle in dorsiflexion (toes flexed back) to align the shinbone. If you are feeling any tension or pain around the front knee, back off, place the foot closer to the opposite groin, and consider a supportive blanket, block, or bolster under the thigh. Do not continue in pain.
- Progressing to advanced variations – As you prepare to try on other variations of pigeon, use a strap around the back foot and slowly draw your foot in toward your torso as you lift your chest up.
- From your hands and knees, bring your right knee forward to the floor just behind your right hand.
- Place your right foot toward the left side of your mat, shin on the mat, with your knee at an angle that creates a stretch in the hip without pain in the knee. If your shin is parallel to the top of the mat, flex your foot back to stabilize the joints.
- Walk your left knee behind you until your leg is fully extended. Draw your inner thighs towards each other, slightly lifting your pelvis higher.
- Find the middle point where equal weight is between your left and right sides, and your pelvis is squared to the front of your mat.
- If the right hip is off the ground, use a folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under your right hip for support, keeping the hips square and level.
- Uncurl your left toes, looking back to see that your ankle is in line with your shin, and your leg is running in a straight line behind you.
- On an inhale, send your tailbone down towards the earth and the crown of your head up towards the sky.
- Exhale and slowly walk your hands forward in front of you, placing elbows on the floor or arms extended in front of you with torso on the floor.
- Breathe slowly for at least 5 deep breaths.
- Slowly walk your hands back up towards your body, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Send the head of the arm bones back, allowing your upper chest to lift slightly so that the collarbones are broad.
- Inhale to send your tailbone down and your crown up, walking your hands closer and closer to the body on an exhale so that the torso is moving towards an upright posture. Breathe here for 5 breaths or continue with the variation pose below.
- Variation A – If you are able to painlessly and evenly stay in this posture while removing your right hand from the earth, you may reach your right arm behind you with the palm up. Draw your lower belly in to stabilize your spine, inner thighs moving towards each other. Bend your right knee and grasp the flexed foot with your hand. You may stay here and breathe or progress to the next variation.
- Variation B – Point your foot and slowly shift your hand to the toes of the foot by outwardly rotating your arm deeper, slowly lifting the elbow forward, upwards, and eventually backwards so that the palm is facing down. Press your left support hand into the floor to lengthen your waistline, keeping even weight in the left and right sides of the body. Breathe here or progress to the next variation.
- Variation C – If you are able to maintain your balance and stability draw the lower belly in, move your inner thighs towards each other, lift your left arm up and back, grasping your foot with both hands. Send the head of the arm bone back into the socket, keep the action of your lower belly and legs, and breathe.
- Slowly, release your foot, place both palms on the floor and step back to adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog).
- Return to your hands and knees and repeat on the other side.