Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pigeon Pose - Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Pigeon is a great hip opening pose.

Basics of Pigeon:

1. Start in Down dog. Bring right leg forward with right knee stretching toward right wrist. If possible keep the right knee wider than the right hip. If this causes pain, bring the right knee in line with the right hip. (But the right knee should not be to the left of the right hip.)

2. Extend the left leg back a few inches making sure the back leg is in line with the left hip and the left ankle is straight (not curved in). Your right foot should be in front of your left hip.

3. For a deeper stretch the right shin can be more parallel to the front of the mat and farther away from your left hip. For a less intense stretch the right foot can be closer to your left hip.

4. Keep the energy of the legs strong. Hug the muscles to the bone, and hug both legs in toward the midline. Press the right foot strongly into the floor. This action will protect your right knee. If you feel any knee pain come out of the pose.

5. The back foot can be flexed with toes tucked or flat with top of foot pressing into the floor. Either way the back leg should be strong and energetically drawing in toward the midline of the body.

6. Draw the tailbone towards the heels and lift the belly up. Imagine an energy loop connecting these actions. So the energy of the tailbone draws toward the heels but then rounds upwards lifting and creating tone in the belly.

7. Breathe in fully and deeply expanding the breath into the back of the body. The breath expands into the chest naturally but we want to consciously send the breath to open the back so the rib cage expands in all directions. Come up on your fingertips.

8. Inhale feeling the breath lift the shoulders and lengthen the side body and spine. On the exhale softly place your shoulders onto the back feeling the chest open and freedom between the back shoulder blades.

9. Fold forward resting your forehead on the back of your palms. Keep the legs strong. Draw the right hip crease back to deepen the stretch.

Pigeon is a pose that gradually unfolds. Use your breath to go deeper into the pose and visualize your hips opening. You should feel a deep stretch on the outer hip of the bent front leg but no knee pain. Feel the bold energy and resourcefulness of a pigeon.

Notice that the principles of lifting and engaging the belly, keeping the shoulders on the back, keeping the back leg in line with the hip and playing with the breath are the same principles we use in Tadasana, cobra and all our poses.

Video showing Pigeon

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