Before a yoga class begins, I like to ask students what they would like to focus on. Over half of the time, students shout out “hips”! Some even specifically request the most well known hip-opener: pigeon pose. As ubiquitous as the bird it shares a name with, this pose is a great hip opener and has variations and subtleties that help it adapt to fit every student’s needs
Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is an intermediate pose that opens the hips and chest, stretches the quads and, depending on the variation, provides a backbend. Just a heads up, there is another version known in Sanskrit as Kapotasana that is an advanced backbend and hip stretch, but I’m primarily referring to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. The pose may have been named after an actual pigeon (kapota translates to pigeon in Sanskrit), as the full expression of the pose resembles a pigeon puffing up its chest. It may have also been named after a yogic master named Kapota, who was known for agility, strength and vitality and documented in the Mahabharata scripture. Either way, this pose is awesome. Let’s explore why.
Pigeon Adapts to Every Students Needs
When we say pigeon, we usually are referring to some kind of hip opener. Pigeon can adapt to whatever you need- the traditional form, bolstered with a prop, or done in a supine position. Types of pigeon include, but are not limited to:
This advanced posture stretches the groin and back.
Rajakapotasana or One-Legged King Pigeon
The elegant, advanced posture adds the backbend into the hip-opener. It is the “full” expression of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
Pigeon on a Perch
Do you have trouble keeping your hip down? Place a block under it for support- your very own ”perch”!
Morbid but comfortable! Lie on your back and simulate the hip opening by crossing one ankle of the knee and binging the knee toward the chest. This is also called thread the needle.
One leg not enough? Cross the other leg over for double the action. This is also known as fire log.
From chair pose, cross one ankle over the opposing knee to open the hip!
Pigeon Opens the Hip and Stimulates the Nervous System
Pigeon pose also stretches the quads and chest, and is a backbend depending on the variation you choose. It also stretches the psoas muscle, the main hip flexor and connector of the torso and legs that becomes shorter due to a seated and sedentary lifestyle. It is a great way to lengthen and strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the hips by externally rotating the femur in the hip socket. The full expression of the posture also stimulates organs and glands in the abdomen, all of which promote physical wellness.
Mentally, pigeon pose helps you regulate yourself in stressful situations. The intensity of the posture activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing a “fight or flight” stress response. Finding pigeon pose helps you face challenges in life by teaching you to stay calm when this stress response is activated.
To recap, pigeon pose is awesome because it is adaptable to your needs, deeply stretches the hips and other areas, and may help you deal with emotions and stress in a healthier way.
How awesome is that?