EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA(aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna)
eka = one
pada = foot or leg
raja = king
kapota = pigeon or dove
One-Leg King-Pigeon Pose. The full pose involves a deep back bend, which puffs the chest, resembling that of a pigeon. Included here are three levels of poses, beginning, experienced beginning, and intermediate. The first of these will be described immediately below. The other two will be described in the VARIATION section near the end of this piece.
NOTE: This pose SHOULD NOT be performed as a warm-up, it should ONLY be performed after sufficient hip openers have been practiced. Suggested hip opening preps are listed in PREPARATORY ASANAS below.
1. Begin on all-fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. You might want to place a blanket under your knees for padding. Slide your right knee forward just to the outside of your right wrist. At the same time angle your right shin diagonally under your torso and bring your right heel 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 left leg to the floor and the outside of your right thigh/buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.
NOTE: If the right buttock doesn’t touch the floor, support it on a block or thickly folded blanket.
2. 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 the little toe and the center of the knee cap presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh, stretch your arms forward. Stay for about a minute.
3. To lift the torso to upright, DON’T push it up with your hands. Lift it by drawing the tail bone down to the floor, use your hands to gently guide the torso upright. Then push your fingertips firmly to the floor. Inhale and lift your hip points away from the thighs. Lengthen the lower back by pressing your tail bone down and forward; at the same time, and lift your pubis toward the navel, closing the space between the pubis and navel. Roll your left hip point toward the right heel, and lengthen the left front groin.
4. If you can maintain the upright position of your torso without the support of your hands on the floor, bring your hands to the lower rim of your rib case. Lift the rim, moving the back rim faster than the front, be sure not to push the front ribs forward. For this beginning pose, keep your head in a neutral position, look straight forward. To open your chest, lift the top of your sternum (at the manubrium) straight up toward the ceiling.
NOTE: If supporting your torso upright without using your hands is difficult, there are two alternatives to try: 1) perform the pose facing a wall, with the front knee close to the wall. To lift the torso upright, press your hands to the wall in front of your shoulders; 2) perform the pose in front of a yoga chair, then use the chair seat to support the torso.
5. Stay in this position for a minute. Then, with your hands back on the floor, carefully slide the left knee forward, turn the back toes under, inhale, and lift up and back into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana). Take a few breaths, drop the knees and return to all-fours on another exhale, and repeat with the legs reversed for the same length of time.
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
- MODIFICATIONS & PROPS
It’s often difficult to descend the outside of the front-leg hip all the way to the floor. Use a thickly folded blanket to support the hip.
1. Modified full pose. From the leg position described above, bend the back-leg knee, bring the heel as close as you can to the back torso, then reach back with the same-side hand, and with the arm parallel to the floor, hold the ankle. The off-side hand continues to support the upright torso. Stay for a minute or so, then release and repeat on the other side for the same length of time.
2. Full pose. Snug a yoga strap around your left foot with the buckle on the sole side. Perform the preliminary leg position described above, strap laying along your left side. Bend the left knee, take hold of the strap and sling it over your left shoulder. Then holding the belt in both hands, stretch your arms upward toward the ceiling and pull gently on the belt. With the arms more or less parallel to each other, slowly and GENTLY walk your hands down the strap toward the left foot. Don’t pull on the strap. When you’ve reached what feels like a reasonable stretch, stop and hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Release with an exhale, repeat on the other side.
- PREPARATORY ASANAS
Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)
Cow Face (Gomukhasana)
Bridge (Setu Bandha)
Recline Hero/Heroine (Supta Virasana)
Recline Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
- FOLLOW-UP ASANAS
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is actually the first in a series of four, increasingly difficult Pigeon poses. In each of the three successive poses the forward leg is placed in a slightly different position. In the second variation the forward foot is standing on the floor just in front of the same-side buttock, with the knee angled well forward of the heel. In the third variation the forward leg is in Ardha Virasana, while in the fourth the leg is stretched straight forward of the pelvis. Other possibilities (leg position only):
- ADVANCED TIP
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 and along the armpits. Then “pin” the elbows to the ceiling and release or “hang” the rib case 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 gripping 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.
EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA(aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna)