Kapotasana Pigeon Pose
The name comes from the Sanskrit words kapota (कपोत) meaning “pigeon” and asana (आसन) meaning “posture” or “seat” Kapotasana is an asana which helps to open up the chest and also strengthens the back and groin. It opens and increases the flexibility of the hips, at the same time strengthening the back, and stretching the thighs and the groin. Variations include Rajakapotasana (राजकपोतासन) (King Pigeon Pose), Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (एकपादरजकपोतसन) (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose) and Salamba Kapotasana (Supported Pigeon Pose)
Practice of Kapotasana Pigeon Pose
- Kneel upright, with your knees slightly narrower than hip width apart and your hips, shoulders, and head stacked directly above your knees. With your hands, press down against the back of your pelvis.
- On an inhalation, tuck your chin toward your sternum and lean your head and shoulders back as far as you can without pushing your hips forward. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and lift the top of your sternum. When your chest is maximally lifted, gradually release your head back.
- Before you arch all the way back and place your head and hands on the floor, bring your palms together in front of your sternum in Anjali Mudra. Then separate your hands and reach them overhead toward the floor behind you. Bring your hips forward enough to counterbalance the backward movement of the upper torso and head. Keep your thighs as perpendicular to the floor as possible as you drop back. Place your palms on the floor, fingers pointing toward your feet, then lower your crown to the floor as well.
- Press your palms, lift your head slightly off the floor and raise your hips, opening your front groins as much as possible. Lifting your pelvis as much as possible, lengthen and extend your upper spine and walk your hands to your feet. As you do, lower your forearms to the floor. If possible, grip your ankles (or, if you’re very flexible, your calves). Draw your elbows toward each other until they’re shoulder width apart, and anchor them firmly on the floor. Extend your neck and place your forehead on the floor.
- Take a full inhalation to expand your chest. Then, exhaling softly but thoroughly, press your shins and forearms against the floor; as you do, lengthen your tailbone toward the knees and lift your top sternum in the opposite direction.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer, further expanding the chest with each inhale, softening the belly with each exhale. Then release your grip, walk your hands away from your feet, and push your torso back to upright with an inhale. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
Benefits of King Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana):
- Strengthening the back muscles
- Stretching the entire front of the body, throat, chest and abdomen, the deep hip flexors (psoas), groins and thighs, and the ankles
- Improving posture
- Stimulating the neck and the abdominal organs
- Pigeon pose should be practiced with caution if you suffer from knee pain or knee injuries. Seek the the guidance of a yoga professional before trying this pose. Note that knee pain and problems can be due to tight hips- so working your way into hip openers may lead to long-term knee health.
- Be conscious of squaring the shoulders in the upright version of the pose so as to minimize ‘crunching’ in the low back. If you experience crunching, then you need to back off.