Pose of the Month: Pigeon Pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
By Gwen Lawrence
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Pigeon pose releases the stress and tension in your hips. Everyone can benefit from the hip opener known as pigeon pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. Stress and tension can build up in the hips and create tightness. Practicing pigeon can make for supple, more flexible hips. Sometimes this pose will take your breath away with its depth, but stick with it and you’ll notice the immediate improvement.
How to: Pigeon Pose
Start on all fours in a squared table pose.
Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your right knee at two o’clock.
Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow.
Keep your hips square to the floor. If your hips are not square, there will be unnecessary force on your back, and you won’t be able to open the hips to their fullest.
If you’re not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward–little by little–toward your left hand. With practice, bring your foot parallel with the front edge of your mat
Your right thigh should have an external rotation, and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. This keeps pressure off the knee cap.
Depending on how you feel, you will be upright on your hands while sinking the hips forward and down. Level two will rest on their forearms, and level three will rest the chest on the floor with the arms fully extended in front of you.
To get full release in the hips, breathe and release the belly. Stay in this position anywhere from 10 breaths to five minutes.
Benefits of Pigeon Pose
When done properly and consistently, pigeon pose can:
Stimulate the internal organs
Stretch deep glutes
Stretch groins and psoas (a long muscle on the side of your vertebral column and pelvis)
Relieve impinged piriformis and alleviate sciatic pain
Help with urinary disorders
For the lay person or yogi, pigeon pose elongates the back, opens the hips, groin, hamstrings, and relieves pressure on the lower back and sciatica. Your hips are a keystone to your body and its proper functioning. Open hips improve your posture, alignment and overall flexibility. Open hips also release the negative feelings and energy from your system since stress, tension and anxiety are often stored there.
It is a primal response to tighten up when under excessive stress or trauma. This tension releases easily with pigeon pose. When I ask students in my class to hold this pose for a length of time, many will feel a rush of released emotion and actually cry.
For the athlete, this pose is critical to overall health, speed and agility. Open hips relieve the stress transferred to the knees when hips are tight. Less knee strain means a greater range of motion for the pivot sports such as tennis, basketball or soccer, reducing risk to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Clear hips also give the back a full range of motion. This helps athletes avoid lower back strains that often plague them. Flexible and aligned hips are essential for an athletes’ best performance.
Always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before you start a yoga practice. The few instances when you should avoid this pose entirely are if you have:
A sacroiliac or back injury
An ankle injury
Certain knee injuries
Extreme tightness in the hips
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.