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The first time I saw this pose in a magazine, I was amazed. I thought, how is it possible for the human body to suspend itself like this when gravity is working against us?! I was absolutely determined—no, obsessed—with finding a way to make this pose happen in my practice. Call it ego or persistance, but however you name it, it was all about the conquest of this one for me. Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that the moment you actually “get” a difficult pose like this one, do you know what happens? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing changes, you won’t feel different, and sparks won’t fly. It’s just another step on the road in this yoga journey. So relax, take it one step at a time, and remember that in time, you CAN learn to do this. Enjoy the process of learning and refining the little things along the way, not just “sticking” the fancy pose. The yoga police won’t come after you if you haven’t mastered it in a certain time frame, I promise!
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How to enter the full pose
Flying Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)
Standing up, bring your right ankle on top of your left thigh (just above the knee) with the foot flexed and knee bent. Bend the left knee deeply and sit your hips down low as if you were coming into Chair Pose. Keep your right knee bent and the ankle over the left thigh and fold forward, planting your hands firmly on the floor under the shoulders. Lean in to the fingertips and bend the elbows slightly. Bend the left knee deeply and place the right shinbone as high up on the triceps as possible—almost in the armpits. Hook your right foot around the left tricep. Then start to scoot the left foot back and away from your hands an inch at a time until you have enough room to start to extend it up and back. Before you take off, shift most of your weight into your arms and draw your belly in so your back rounds, just like in would in Cat Pose. When your core is engaged you’ll start to feel lighter, which makes it possible to float the left leg up and back and enjoy the ride!
There are a few points where people tend to get stuck when we’re learning this pose. Try the following “fixes” for three common snags that happen along the learning curve.
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Frustration: “I can’t even get my standing foot off the floor!”
Modification 1: Stand on a block.
I have found that it helps to elevate that foot with the help of a block. This way, the hips are higher and you feel less heavy and like your backside is sinking down toward the floor. You still have to engage the core and hold this shape, so you’re getting the work of preparing for the pose even if you’re not ready to fly yet.
Frustration: “I can ALMOST float that standing leg back, but I need a little extra help to get some height.”
Modification 2: Place your back shin on a block.
When you’re almost there, stand your block up so it’s at its tallest. When you’re leaning forward to prepare to float the left leg back, you can use it as a pitstop for the shin before you get the full extension. Plus, I used to find it easier to lift off the block than to lift up from the ground.
Frustration: “The back leg is just too stubborn to lift off.”
Modification 3: Practice with the back knee bent.
I’m adding this as an option. If you can’t extend the back leg yet, work with this in-between version as if it were its own pose. Hug the elbows in toward the midline, lift the hips up toward the sky, and draw the belly back as you round the spine. In no time you’ll start to feel lighter here, which is when extending the back leg feels like a breeze and a natural next step.
About Erin Motz
Listen, I’m not your traditional yogi: I’m the carnivorous, red wine, and French cheese-loving type and I teach vinyasa flow. My aim is to keep my classes fun and accessible, both in the studio and online. You won’t hear much Sanskrit, I totally forgive you if you don’t know your asana from your elbow, and I firmly believe that yoga is for everyone, from the kale-loving vegan to the prize-winning deer hunter. I may be a Bad Yogi, but if I’m being totally honest, teaching yoga has been one of my greatest pleasures; I practice to feed my teaching, but I teach to feed my life. Find me on Instagram @erinmotz and Facebook @erinmotzyoga.