Exercise & Fitness
"The Pigeon Pose provides a deep stretch of the hips, legs, and back and is ideal for athletes of all abilities, especially runners." - Andrew Weil, M.D.
Description & History
The Pigeon Pose, also known as One-Legged-King Pigeon Pose, is a forward bending pose that stretches the muscles of the legs, hips, and back. The Sanskrit name of Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, comes from eka meaning one, pada meaning foot, raja meaning king, kapota meaning pigeon and asana meaning posture. It provides a way to open up and stretch stiff hips, chronically shortened by excessive sitting. The pose may be difficult for beginners to perform, especially if hip flexibility is limited.
How to Perform Pigeon Pose
- Begin on your hands and knees. Bring your right knee forward and lay it down in front of you. Your right foot should be near your left hand and your right knee near your right hand. Optimally the right knee should be in line with the ankle while the foot stays flexed.
- Slowly slide your left leg back and straighten the knee until your thigh touches the floor. Keep your hips square, facing forward and shift your weight so your right buttock is resting on the floor.
- Slide your hands back so they are alongside your body and press your fingertips into the floor. Lengthen your torso starting with your tailbone and out through the top of your head. Lengthen your spine with each exhale.
- Stay in this position for one minute. To come out of the pose, press down with your hands and bring your left knee forward. Come up into the starting position on all fours, and switch to the other side. After completing the left side, you are done with this pose.
Potential Health Benefits
- Stretches the thigh, groin and hip muscles (especially the psoas muscle) as well as the abdomen and back
- Externally rotates the hip outward
- Stimulates organs including the gastrointestinal tract
- Open the chest and lungs, increasing lung capacity
An article in the Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation examined ways older adults can use yoga poses for managing chronic pain. The Pigeon Pose was recommended as a way for older adults to increase flexibility while decreasing pain. Results showed this pose may provide relief from chronic pain that is a direct result of improper posture or lack of flexibility.
Modifications & Variations
Beginners of the Pigeon Pose may find it difficult to complete due to limited flexibility. If you are unable to balance while in the pose, use a chair or yoga block to help.
If you are an advanced practitioner, modify the pose by bringing your hands up to your hips so you no longer use your arms for balance. This modification can progress by raising your arms above your head so you engage your core.
Another modification is to bend your back leg at the knee so you can grasp your foot. This modification opens the chest and stretches the legs. If you are unable to grasp your back foot, you can use a stretching strap to pull your foot as close to your body as possible.
Take caution when performing this pose or avoid it altogether if you suffer from sacroiliac problems, hip pain, or have knee or ankle injuries. Do not overstretch or "bounce" your muscles when in Pigeon Pose, as bouncing does not improve flexibility and may lead to injury.
- Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Reviewed by: James Nicolai, M.D., on August 20th, 2013.
Wang, Donna, and Amanda Feinstein. "Managing Pain in Older Adults: The Benefits of Yoga Postures, Meditation and Mindfulness." Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 27, no. 2 (2011): 104.