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Yoga Backbends

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a deep hip opener and forward bend that requires an ability to know your limits as you find your version of this challenging pose.

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Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose) is, for many, a much-needed deep hip opener. The hips are the central hub of movement in your body. When they’re tight, it’s like wearing pants that are too small—the reduced range of motion in your hips, hamstrings, and spine creates discomfort. Opening this region improves circulation to your lower extremities, provides better range of motion, and will help you feel more at ease during meditation, seated postures, and most of life.

“Some hip openers increase the external, or outward, rotation of the femur bone in the hip socket. Others lengthen the psoas muscle, a primary hip flexor connecting the torso and legs that gets chronically shortened in our chair-bound society,” says Natasha Rizopoulos, a senior teacher and teacher trainer at the Down Under School of Yoga. “This pose is an extremely effective hip opener that addresses both areas, with the front leg working in external rotation and the back leg in position to stretch the psoas.

Approach the pose thoughtfully and consciously—it’s an intense pose that requires precise alignment. Take your time and rely on your breath. When you do, it can promote calmness and clarity.

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose basics

Sanskrit: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna)

Pose type: Hip-opening

Targets: Lower body

Why we love it: “Many of us are likely to thoughtlessly fold into the forward-bend variation of Pigeon, which can put a lot of stress on the knee and sacrum. To avoid injury, I approach Pigeon by first doing variations that will open the hips gradually and safely. Once my hips are open, I’m able to craft a well-balanced Pigeon that benefits my hips and lower back.” —Natasha Rizopoulos, a senior teacher and teacher trainer at the Down Under School of Yoga

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Pose benefits

This pose stretches your thighs, inner hips, and buttocks in different ways in your bent and straight legs.

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose: Step-by-step instructions

  1. Starting on your hands and knees, slide your left knee forward, angling your left shin under your torso so your left foot is at the front of your right knee and the outside of your left shin is resting on the floor.
  2. Slowly slide your right leg back, straightening your knee and resting the top of your thigh on the floor.
  3. Lower your outer left backside to the floor.
  4. Position your left heel just in front of your right hip.
  5. Your left knee can angle slightly to the left, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your right leg. It should extend straight back from your hip.
  6. Lift your torso away from your thigh. Lengthen your lower back by pressing your tailbone down and forward.
  7. Draw your right front hip point slightly forward, toward your left heel.
  8. Remain in the pose for a few breaths, release your hands one by one, and lower your torso over the left leg and down to the floor, keeping the spine long.
  9. Stay for a few breaths, resting the forehead on the floor or your forearms. Come up with an inhale and return to your hands and knees.
  10. Repeat on the other side.

Teaching One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • It’s often difficult to descend the outside of the front-leg hip all the way to the floor. Place a thickly folded blanket underneath the hip for support.
  • Make sure to warm up properly for this posture with forward folds and hip-opening postures.

Variation: Seated Pigeon Pose

Man demonstrates modification for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose I
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Begin by sitting in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Bend your knees and place the soles of the feet on the mat. Place your arms slightly behind you, with your fingers pointing backward. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh. Flex your left foot. Draw your right shin in towards the body as you press your left knee away from you.

Preparatory Poses

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)

Counter Poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)