One-legged pigeon pose, which is commonly referred to as just pigeon pose, is a gentle and restorative pose. It’s a pose that needs to be held to truly feel the benefits otherwise it won’t properly open the hip up. Pigeon pose has many variations, but the one-legged pigeon pose is done seated and low to the ground.
There are other variations done closer to the ground or further away but this one is the most common one found in a practice. It’s also found in a Yin practice, which is another form of yoga where poses are held for long periods of time to get deeper into the muscles and to relax. This is because this version of pigeon is passive, there is no gripping or strength needed in this pigeon, which makes it very restorative and easy to hold.
The basics of one-legged pigeon pose
Pigeon pose is also known as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in Sanskrit, which directly translates to one leg kind pigeon pose. It’s a pose famously known for opening the hips because it’s a very deep hip opener. The full version of this pose is also a backbend but that’s more of an advanced level pose that people don’t often do.
The version without the backbend focuses mainly on the hips and improving flexibility in that area. It is a deep hip-opener, but it can be done by almost anyone, which makes it a beginner pose. Pigeon pose is so accessible because of how much it can be modified and the many variations that there are of it. This allows anyone to experience the benefits that this pose has to offer.
The benefits of practicing one-legged pigeon pose
The most obvious benefit of this pose is that it opens the hips and improves flexibility in the hip and groin. It prepares the body and is often used to train the body for even more flexible poses like side splits. Pigeon pose also stretches the thighs and groin and strengthens the glute muscles because they need to be engaged to hold this pose upright.
The version of one-legged pigeon pose where the body isn’t upright but instead laying down is sometimes known as sleeping pigeon. This version relieves stress and anxiety and is often the one used in most flows, especially Yin, because of how relaxing it is. This pose offers a break in a busy vinyasa flow or a juicy stretch to warm up or cool down.
How to do one-legged pigeon pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin in a tabletop position with wrists stacked under shoulders and knees stacked under the hips.
- Lift the right leg up and bring the right knee to the outside of the right wrist and lay the shin down on the floor parallel to the top of the mat.
- From there, begin to stretch the left leg back until it’s flat on the floor and parallel to the longer edge of the mat.
- Proceed to move the right foot in, closer to the groin until you’re sitting on both sits bones evenly and still feeling a stretch in the right hip area. You can use your hands as support by placing them on the mat next to the body.
- If this is comfortable and you feel a stretch, then stay and hold here. Otherwise, you can fold forward over the right leg letting your arms rest gently wherever they are comfortable.
- Hold for 5- breaths remembering to breathe deeply and relax into the pose. Use your hands to push out of the pose and back into tabletop before going to the other side.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
When doing one-legged pigeon pose many people try to get their front leg as parallel to the top of the mat as they can. When people do this, they risk falling onto one sits bone more than the other, the hips are no longer parallel, and the hip being opened more can experience some pain.
The further away the front foot is, the deeper this pose is going to be. There’s no need to go very deep in this pose, the front foot can be as close to the body as it needs to be and doesn’t need to be pushed away, as long as a stretch is being felt. This is a gentle pose and doesn’t need to be pushed into.
Take the pose slowly and see where your edge is. Don’t go further than what your own body is comfortable with, it needs to be listened to. Your body always knows how far it can go and this isn’t a push through the pain kind of pose. Use as many props as needed. Beginning with a lot of props makes it easier to find the most comfortable version of this pose for your specific body. Don’t be afraid to modify.
One-legged pigeon pose shouldn’t be done if someone is experiencing any kind of hip, groin, thigh, glutes, or back pain. It’s an extremely deep pose so if someone has an injury then they should avoid this pose. Always consult a doctor or physician before doing any exercise or movement to see if it’s okay with your body.
There are so many variations of this pose and the easiest or most beginner-friendly one is the one done laying on your back. It’s exact same shape except one ankle is crossing over the other knee and the arms thread through that leg to hold them up. It looks almost like a figure 4 shape, which is what the stretch is also known to be called. The same shape can be done standing and is also a balancing pose. Both are not as deep as one-legged pigeon, but they give the same stretch.
A harder variation of pigeon is mermaid or full king pigeon where the back leg is bent, and the arms wrap around the back foot for a deeper backbend. Full kind pigeon is when the back foot is held by both hands behind the head or even touching the head. Whereas mermaid is when the hands are in a bind around the back foot, this version is easier than the full variation but is still a deep backbend and difficult.References: