Michelle Welling

How to King Pigeon Pose in Yoga

What is King Pigeon Pose?

King Pigeon pose is quite an advanced posture that improves both strength and flexibility in nearly the entire body. The Sanskrit name is “Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana” meaning One Legged King Pigeon Pose. King Pigeon is a deep back bend and shoulder/chest opener and therefore it is extremely important that you warm up the body before entering into it. 

What are the benefits of king pigeon pose?

There are many benefits to practicing and working towards king pigeon pose. The key benefits are that it: 

  • Improves shoulder and chest flexibility 
  • Stretches the entire lower body (e.g. glutes & quadriceps)
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Strengthens the back
  • Opens both the sacral and heart chakra

4 Poses to Warm Up for King Pigeon:

Cobra 

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

Cobra is a great way to warm up the spine before entering into your deep backbend in King Pigeon.

Start by lying on your front. Then place your hands underneath your shoulders, elbows hugging in towards the body, press the tops of your feet into the mat and lightly engage your glutes (aka squeeze your bum but not too hard). 

Start to lift your chest, pressing into your hands and begin straightening the arms (arms DO NOT have to straight all the way). Keep ensuring your shoulder blades are rolled down your back and shoulders are away from ears. Holds for 3 breaths and then return back to lying on your front. Repeat 5 times.

Puppy pose

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

As King Pigeon is a big chest and shoulder opener, puppy pose is a great way to warm up these areas whilst also building flexibility in the spine.

Begin in a table top position. Then start to walk hands out in front of you, ensuring that your hips stay positioned above your knees. Rest your forehead down on the mat and start to focus on melting your heart space (chest) towards the ground. If you want a little more, you can bring your chin to the floor and look forwards. Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat 3 times. 

Low lunge with quad stretch

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

As the back foot is lifted in a King Pigeon, it can be quite an intense stretch through the back quadricep. Low lunge with an added quad stretch is therefore the perfect warm up pose to prepare you for this.

Start in a table top and then step your right foot between your hands. Lean into your front leg to stretch through the left hip flexor. Try to keep your front knee stacked over your ankle (if your knee is riding over your ankle, wiggle your front foot forwards more). Hold for 3 breathes.

Then start to lift your back foot up off of the floor so toes point towards the sky. Reach your right hand back, with your palm facing away from you (thumb at the top, pinky finger below). Grab onto the outside (baby toe side) of your foot. Hold for 3-5 breathes, pulling your foot a little closer to your bum with every exhale. 

One-Legged Pigeon Pose

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

In order to feel more comfortable in our king pigeon, it is important that we first feel confident with our One Legged Pigeon Pose. 

Start in a table top position, and then send your right knee to your right wrist. Direct your foot out to the left so that your shin and thigh make a backwards 7 shape.  Flex your front foot to ensure your knee is protected and then slide your back leg behind you. Check in with your hips that they are square and in line with each other. Don’t let one hip sink lower than the other.

Begin to lower down onto your forearm arms. If you want to go deeper, you can take your forehead to the floor and stretch your arms out in front of you. Hold for 5-7 breathes. Repeat on the other side

Step by Step on How to do a King Pigeon Pose

  1. Start in table top making sure your wrists are stacked underneath your shoulders and knees underneath hips

  2. Send your right knee to your right wrist and direct your foot out to the left so that your shin and thigh make a backwards 7 shape. Flex your front foot to protect your knee. 

  3. Slide your back leg behind you. Double check your back leg is straight and in line with your hip. Also check in with your hips and make sure they are in line with each other (you don’t want one hip sinking lower than the other)

  4. Bring your right hand to the center to keep you stable 

  5. Lift your left (back) foot up so that your toes point up to the sky 

  6. Reach your left hand behind you with your thumb pointing down, your pinky finger facing up and your palm facing you and grab around the outside of your lifted foot

  7. Start lifting your elbow up towards the sky making sure you keep your glutes (bum) engaged at all times to protect your lower back 

  8. If your left elbow is now facing upwards and you feel stable, you can start to reach your right hand back and try find your left elbow. 

  9. If possible, start to walk your right hand down the opposite forearm aiming towards your foot. The full pose is when you are holding your back foot with both hands. 

  10. Repeat on the other side

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

Strap Drills to Help You Build up to King Pigeon

If you don’t have a strap for these drills, you can substitute for a tie.

Drill One:

  1. Make a loop in your strap and loop it around your left foot 

  2. Enter into pigeon pose (follow instructions 1-3 above if stuck) with your right foot at the front and ensure your looped-up foot is at the back 

  3. Bring your right hand to the center to stabilise

  4. Lift your left (strapped up) foot up so your toes point up to the sky 

  5. Reach your left hand behind you with your thumb pointing down, your pinky finger facing up and your palm facing you and grab a hold of the strap. Leave a good amount of space along the strap between your hand and foot

  6. Start lifting your elbow up towards the sky making sure you keep your glutes (bum) engaged at all times to protect your lower back. Hold for 3-5 breathes

  7. Repeat step 6 five times, each time working your hand a little further down the strap and closer to your foot 

  8. Repeat on the other side

Yoga King Pigeon Pose

Drill Two:

  1. Repeat steps 1-6 of drill one

  2. If you feel stable, start to also reach your right hand back to find the strap 

  3. Begin to walk your hands down the strap closer to your foot

  4. Hold for 3-5 breathes

  5. Repeat on the other side


Yoga King Pigeon Pose

Conclusion

King Pigeon is an advanced posture that can improve strength and flexibility throughout the body. The deep back bend and shoulder/chest opener required for this pose mean it is extremely important that you warm up the body beforehand, but it is well worth the extra effort! If you are approaching King Pigeon for the first time, you can prepare your body for this pose by working through a flow of Cobra, Puppy Pose, a low lunge with quad stretch, and eventually One-Legged Pigeon Pose. Hold each of these for 3-5 breaths and repeat 3 times. Once you're feeling confident, grab your supportive strap and begin the drills for King Pigeon Pose!

Check out Jen's YouTube channel for more yoga how-to's. 

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