Advanced Challenge Poses

Yogapedia Challenge Pose: Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

Find more energy and freedom in your spine—and your mind—as you move step by step into Kapotasana.

Find more energy and freedom in your spine—and your mind—as you move step by step into Kapotasana.

ALSO WATCH Yogapedia Video: Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA Open Hips + Shoulders for Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
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Benefit
Stretches the quadriceps, hip flexors, and shoulders; strengthens the core and lower back; steadies and concentrates the mind; energizes.

Instruction

Step 1

Start in Ustrasana. Inhale to lift your lower belly in and up and move your tailbone toward the floor to stabilize your lower back. Then reach your left arm toward the ceiling, externally rotating your left shoulder. Stay here for 5 breaths, exhale to release, then repeat on the other side before returning to Ustrasana.

See also Easy Does It: Safe Backhanding with Jason Crandell

Step 2

Inhale both arms alongside your ears, bringing the palms together, if possible. Exhale, making sure your lower back is stable and long. Avoid crunching the lower back by continuing to engage the core and maintaining length in the lower spine. If you are able to proceed farther without strain or pain, inhale to extend backward, leading with the sternum. Lift your shoulders, squeezing your elbows toward each other, and let your head move back. Stay here for at least 5 deep breaths.

See also Fear No Backbend

Step 3

On an inhalation, reach your arms toward the floor. Press your feet into the floor and, using the same support through the legs that you cultivated in Laghuvajrasana, bend the knees only as much as necessary to reach the palms of your hands to the outside of each foot. Check in with your lower back as you work toward this version of Kapotasana, called Kapotasana B.

See also Feel the Wheel in Pigeon Pose

Kino MacGregor King Piigeon Pose Kapotasana

Step 4

Walk your hands toward your knees so the fingers align with your anklebones. Transfer some of your weight to your left hand and walk your right fingers up to your right heel. After you catch your right heel, firmly grip it. Then transfer your weight slightly into your right hand and use your right heel as leverage to press up, walking your left fingers up to grip your left heel. Holding both feet, squeeze the elbows toward each other, and push your hips forward while maintaining length and space in your lower back by keeping your core engaged and your tailbone moving toward your knees. Exhale to bend your elbows and settle them toward the floor. Continue pulling forward without collapsing the hips or bringing the head to the ground. Try to stay here for 5 breaths. To exit the posture, move slowly and carefully. Inhale to return to Kapotasana B and then bring your hands back to your hips, thumbs on your sacrum. Finally, roll the spine back up so you are standing on your knees. Counter with 5 breaths in Child’s Pose.

Stay Safe
If you feel pain in your lumbar spine or shoulders, back off. But if you feel stable, grounded, and like you are simply moving deeper into a stretch, you are likely experiencing a safe physical challenge, rather than unsafe pain. Face any discomfort with steady breath and poise, giving your body and mind the time they need to assess the situation. If it seems right, open and integrate the full lessons of Kapotasana.

See also Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

Our Pro Teacher and 
model

Kino MacGregor is a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher; the author and producer of multiple yoga books, DVDs, and online courses; co-founder of Miami Life Center; and founder of Miami Yoga Magazine. Learn more at kinoyoga.com.