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In Yoga, what is the Pigeon Pose?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In yoga, the pigeon pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in Sanskrit, is a seated asana. It is a hip opener, which means that the intention of this posture is to stretch and open the muscles of the hips and pelvis. The pigeon pose can be modified for beginners or made more difficult for advanced students; in any yoga posture, it is best to listen to the body, and not press it beyond its limitations. This pose should be done on a yoga mat, and it may be necessary for beginner students to use a blanket or bolster.

The pigeon pose is typically entered from downward-facing dog. From downward-facing dog, one drops to all fours, making certain that the knees are directly under the hips, while the hands are slightly in front of the shoulders. Then, slide the right knee forward to meet the right wrist, angle it slightly to the right side of the body, and place the right foot in front of the left knee. The right leg should now be resting on its side, at an angle.

Next, slide the left leg straight back, and flatten the thigh against the floor. The leg should be as straight as possible, without rotating the hips. The leg may rotate inward slightly. Place the right buttock against the floor after squaring the hips; here is where a blanket or bolster may be used if the hips are not flexible enough to allow it to reach the floor. The hands should be resting on the floor at the sides.

Beginner students may stop here and simply breathe within the stretch. Some choose to continue the stretch by leaning forward, keeping the back straight, and resting the chest against the top of the right thigh, stretching the arms forward. Another method is to sit back up straight, lengthen the lower back, and begin a gentle backbend by lifting the chest and looking up. Even more advanced students may bend the left leg up toward the ceiling, reach behind them, and grab hold of the foot during this pigeon pose backbend. In this position, with the puffed chest, one most resembles a pigeon, which is where the pigeon pose gets its name.

To exit the pigeon pose it is best to do so slowly. Return the hands to the sides, and slowly slide the left leg forward and press back into being on all fours once again. Next, enter downward-facing dog; when one is ready to complete the pigeon pose on the other side of the body, drop back onto all fours and repeat the process. This pose can be difficult, and if anything feels painful, it is best to stop. It might be a good idea to look for diagrams, photos or a video online if unsure how the asana is supposed to look.

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Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Dec 02, 2014

@ysmina-- You know that you can do a modified version of the pigeon pose right? You can do it on a chair or on a bed by folding your leg in front of you and leaning down. Do ask your yoga teacher to show you. Yoga is something that everyone can do, that's why there are modified versions of almost all poses.

By burcinc — On Dec 02, 2014

@ysmina-- It's okay. I can't do the advanced version of the pigeon pose either.

Even though yoga is a fairly easy and gentle exercise it is possible to injure oneself if one pushes too far with the poses. You have to listen to your body and stop when it tells you to. Otherwise, you could tear a muscle or cause an even more dangerous injury. Yoga is not supposed to be painful or difficult. It's about working with our body and connecting with it. Forcing ourselves to do poses we can't do is certainly not the way to connect.

So keep doing the pigeon pose but only do what you can.

By ysmina — On Dec 01, 2014

I can do the beginner's version of the pigeon pose but I can't do the full posture. It's very difficult.

The beginner's version is fairly easy. After sitting on the thigh, I can reach forward, put my forehead on the floor and my hands forward. But this is the most I can do. The full posture involves holding the foot in the back with one hand above. This makes a swan or pigeon like appearance and it's the ultimate stretch. I'm sure I will get there one day but I need to stretch and practice a lot more before I get there.

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