Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
I absolutely love this posture. I truly do. It has this amazing ability to calm my nervous system right down and make my brain shut the hell up, no matter what is going on in my life. It is the perfect place to learn to find the balance between effort and ease, between working hard and letting go.
Sthira sukham asanam: asana should be steady and comfortable (Yoga Sutras, Patanjali 2:46).
Yeah right! I remember this was not always the case. In those first couple of years of practicing yoga, pigeon was one of my feared poses. I had in fact noticed which of my teachers favourited the postured and tended to avoid their classes like the plague. I remember being told that we keep so much tension in the hip area and pigeon is an excellent way to release some it. Oh my, the agony. I remember the mental war that was going on in my head between my ego wanting me to stay still and not show that I’m struggling and my body which in an effort to satisfy my ego was holding on for dear life, creating more and more tension. Ironic that in these postures, the only thing that will get you out the other side is trust. Trust and its physical manifestation, the breath. It was only when I learned to breathe, long and slow breaths that things started to shift for me. As I released my grip one breath at a time, I noticed that my hips started to trust me and the knots started to melt away and I began to love being in the posture. And when I surrendered in the posture, I eventually found the space to go into the full posture (which, by the way, should not be the goal). I know sometimes choose to practice one-legged pigeon and other times I play with variations.
As with life, sometimes letting go of effort is what you need the most.
Yoga posture of the month: One-legged Pigeon Pose + Mermaid
How to get into One-legged Pigeon Pose:
Make sure you have warmed your body up before going into the pose and ensure you only practice postures that are safe for your body.
- Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog.
- Raise your right leg towards the ceiling as you inhale.
- As you exhale bend the right knee and bring it down to the ground on the outside of the right wrist, letting the outside of your right calf release on the floor. The right heel should be directly in line with your groin.
- Gently activate the right foot, by pointing the ball of the foot and flexing the toes – this will help protect your knee.
- Bring the left knee down and gradually slide the left hip down and back (Make sure your back leg is pointing straight, as sometimes it goes slightly in the diagonal).
- Come on to the fingertips for a moment and soften the shoulders.
- Bring your attention to your abdomen and drawn the hips points energetically towards one another. This will help activate your core muscles, protecting the lower back.
- With time, let the hips descent towards the floor, keeping them as square as possible. If your right buttock is not touching the floor (it probably won’t be for most of us) take a blanket or block and place it underneath to support you.
- On an exhale let your torso start to lower over your right leg, maybe coming down on your elbows or perhaps placing your forehead on a block.
If you would like to try the Mermaid variation on an inhalation bring your torso up. Only do the variation if you have no lower back issues and you can hold yourself upright without the support of the arms.
- With control, bend the back knee and take hold of the foot with the left hand gently drawing the foot towards your buttocks.
- If that is comfortable, wrap the left arm around the foot, securing it on the inside of your arm.
- On an inhalation, raise the right arm in front of you, opening the chest (but keeping the lower back long and drawing the hip points together).
- If you have the space in the chest bend the right elbow and clasp the hands behind your head.
- Keep the torso upright, without rocking forward. Using your breath, encourage the front of the body to open, letting the right shoulder relax into its socket, and the hips surrender towards the floor.
- To come out, release the back foot with control and tuck the toes under.
- Press the hands down and lift the right leg back into Downward Facing Dog. Take a few breaths there, or in Balasana/Child’s pose before you move on to the other side.
Caution: Do not practice pigeon or mermaid if you have any knee or ankle issues or sacroiliac injury. If you have lower back sensitivity, ensure you work the belly and only stay in the one-legged pigeon version. If you have a back injury, practice under the supervision of a qualified teacher.
Deep hip opener, stretches the groin, thighs, psoas and abdomen, buttocks.
Massages the abdominal organs.
Soothes the nervous system bring the attentions inwards (variation 1)
Mermaid opens the front of the body, lifting mood and energising the body, while strengthening the back.
Why I love it::
When I stay in pigeon, I literally feel tension melting away. I know when I am holding on too much and it teaches me to practice letting go.
I immediately feel a release in the hips which both energises me and relaxes my body.
I feel that prana is free to move around my body after I’ve worked on opening my hips.
It soothes my lower back.
It is one of the best postures to learn to use the breath and to encourage being in the present moment.
++ Do you practice Pigeon pose or Mermaid? How do you incorporate them in your practice? Which is your favourite yoga posture at the moment and why? Leave me a comment below + tell me which posture you’d like me to include in the monthly yoga posture series.
Much love xx