Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Eka Pada Galavasana (One-Legged Balance or Flying Pigeon) is an arm balance that tends to inspire awe, as well as fear from yogis. The delicate perch requires enough flexibility, skill, and both physical and mental strength to detach from the fear of teetering forward and falling on your face.
Some anxiety is perfectly reasonable. After all, humans are wired to avoid circumstances where we might bruise our faces—or our egos. Yet one of the most compelling reasons to practice arm balances is to push beyond our perceived boundaries. Not thoughtlessly, but consciously. Herein lies the beauty (well, one of the beauties) of the practice: By facing your fears and persistently and skillfully practicing Flying Pigeon, you’ll build self-confidence and gain an understanding of your true potential—in yoga as well as in life.
A mind-body approach to Flying Pigeon
This mental fortitude is mirrored in the physical balance that’s so essential to achieving this pose. When you soar into Flying Pigeon with your chest and extended leg flying high above your shoulders, the amount of weight in front of your elbows must match the weight behind them. That’s easier said than done.
This step-by-step practice guide demystifies Eka Pada Galavasana by preparing the body with functional movement. You’ll create space in your hips, strengthen your core, and build a strong foundation through key actions (think Chaturanga arms) that will help you with this as well as many other arm balances. By intentionally targeting and opening specific parts of the body prior to attempting the pose, you’ll increase your chance of gracefully lifting into it.
More from Michelle: How to Flow Through the Heat of Pitta Season With Grace
Before you begin
Warm up and prepare for this sequence with three rounds of Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A), followed by two rounds of Sun Salutation B. Then move through the following warm-ups before beginning the rest of the Flying Pigeon sequence.
Hip rotations and figure 4 stretch
Lie on your back and lift your left leg so that the knee is directly over your hip. Keep your foot flexed. Internally and externally rotate the leg from the hip joint five times, then cross your left ankle over your right thigh to end in a figure 4 stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Prep your glutes with Bridge Pose
Lie on your back with both feet planted firmly on the ground, hip distance apart, with your knees pointing straight up. Lift your hips to come into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose). Keep your hips lifted as you flutter your knees and thighs in and out five to eight times. To come out of the pose, lower your hips to the mat.
Engage your low core
Lie on your back with a block between your thighs. Lift your knees to stack them directly over your hips. With your hands behind your head supporting your neck, activate your abdominals and lift your shoulder blades off the mat. Keep your elbows pointed towards the sky and your head and neck relaxed. Move your knees forward and lower your toes to hover off mat for a few seconds before returning them to their original position over your hips. Repeat five times.
Warm up shoulders with Chaturanga push-ups
Place two blocks on the mat. Come into Plank Pose, and pull your elbows close to your sides. With your core engaged, drop your knees to the mat as you lower your shoulders to hover over the blocks (you can rest your shoulders on the blocks lightly for balance). Then push back up into Plank. Repeat three times.
A sequence to come into Flying Pigeon
Flow through the following poses on one leg, then repeat on the other leg. Remember to breathe throughout this sequence, especially when approaching the arm balance.
Figure 4 Down Dog
From Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), lift your left leg up behind you, then bring your knee forward to your nose. Cross your left ankle above your right knee to come into a figure 4 stretch. Slightly bend your right knee. Push your hands into the floor, pulling your ribs in and pressing your hips up and back. Take five breaths here, then step your left foot in between your hands to come in to Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge).
Low Lunge with heel to belly kicks
Start in Low Lunge, firmly pushing your hands into the floor. Lift your left foot off the mat, then pull your heel toward your belly button. Bring the foot forward again, tapping it down lightly in Low Lunge. Repeat five times, ending in Low Lunge.
Seated Figure 4
From Low Lunge with your left foot forward, bring your right knee behind your left heel and sit onto your right hip, facing the long edge of your mat. Cross your left ankle above your right thigh for a seated figure 4 stretch. Place your hands behind you and lift your chest to sit up tall. Stay here for five breaths.
Supported Warrior III with back leg raises
Grab two blocks. From seated figure 4, turn your hips to face the front of the mat. Root your left foot onto the mat and shoot your right leg back to come into a supported Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III). Wrap your outer left hip down and engage your core. Lift your right heel to hip height, then lower it halfway to the floor. Lift it back to hip height. Repeat five times.
Standing figure 4
From supported Warrior III, bring your right knee forward toward your nose. Lift your torso and root down firmly into your left leg. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh to come into a standing figure 4 pose. Engage your core and sit your hips back. Stay here for five breaths.
Peak Pose: Flying Pigeon
From standing figure 4 pose, hinge at your hips, reaching your arms to the floor to frame your left foot. Place your right shin behind your elbows and wrap your right toes around your left tricep. Gaze down. Pull your chest forward as you engage the mula and uddiyana bandahs. Trust. Breathe. Lift your left heel toward your hips. Balance. Breathe. Continue to engage the bandahs as you lengthen and lift your left leg upwards.