Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, also known as One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, gives an intense stretch to the hips, buttocks and thighs as well as the spine and chest, and will therefore restore motion in these areas.
It opens up your hips while stretching your back, waist, thighs and hip flexors. This pose in particular will improve your lotus and splits, and prepare your spine for more advanced backbending poses.
Meaning + Origin
The Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is derived from the Sanskrit name, which is made up of five words — eka + pada + raja + kapota + asana:
- “eka” = “one”
- “pada” = “leg or foot”
- “raja” = “king”
- “kapota” = “pigeon”
- “asana” = “pose or posture”
The merit of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana adds to the high characteristics when it is performed. This is the reason why the title of “Raja” is attached to its name.
The dove represents love, peace and gratitude in abundance. Those practicing this yoga pose develop a sense of kindness and compassion towards others by leading a cheerful life.
Furthermore, the “King” is the supreme caretaker of his people. In Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, the “King” symbolizes “sacrifice”, the sacrifice of the comfort zone that the student has to make, which in turn transforms the student into the king of their body. Therefore, when you sacrifice your current situation, you ensure the well-being of your own health in the long run.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is described in the 20th century by two disciples of Krishnamacharya, named Pattabhi Jois in his Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and BKS Iyengar in his book Lights on Yoga.
|Know as:||Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, Mermaid Pose, One-footed King Pigeon Pose, One-legged King Pigeon Pose|
|Sanskrit name:||एक पाद राजकपोतासन|
|IAST:||Eka Pāda Rājakapotāsana|
|Pronunciation:||aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna|
|Chakra:||Vishuddha Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra|
|Indications:||Urinary disorder, sciatica|
|Preparatory poses:||Butterfly Pose, Cobra Pose, Cow Face Pose, Bridge Pose, Reclined Hero Pose, Reclining Bound Angle Pose, Extended Side Angle Pose, Extended Triangle Pose, Hero Pose, Tree Pose|
|Follow-up poses:||Half Hero Pose, Monkey Pose, Reclined hero pose, Reclined Half Hero, Half Spinal Twist Pose, Wide Child Pose|
|Contraindications:||Knee injury, hip injury, back injury, shoulder injury|
Benefits of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose)
The need to enjoy any yoga pose comes from practice and awareness. In this yoga asana, every part and inch of the body is stretched and hence deep breathing as well as body awareness is essential to make the most of it during this yoga pose. Some of the most important physical and mental benefits of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana are as follows:
- Physical Benefits:
- Encourages healthy thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal function
- Stimulates the digestive and reproductive systems
- Therapeutic for low blood pressure, infertility, and headache
- Opens the hip flexors, thighs, chest, and shoulders
- Energizes the body
- Alleviates menstrual and menopausal discomfort
- Improves circulation to the abdominal cavity and low back
- Mental Benefits:
Steps to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose)
Bend your left knee and place your left foot with your toes near your right waist. Extend your right leg straight back, keeping the front of the thigh, shin and top of the foot on the floor. Widen your right hip to the right and square your hips to the front.
Extend your right-hand backwards with the palm facing up. Inhale and lengthen the sides of the body. Exhale and turn your head, torso, chest and shoulders to the right. Bend your back leg and grasp your right leg with your right hand. Turn your leg out to the side and grasp the instep with a firm grip.
Keep your torso and shoulder to the right, and draw your right elbow close to your side. Keeping your elbows straight, exhale and bring the right side of your torso and shoulder forward. Inhale and bend your right elbow upward. Maintaining a firm grip on the foot, rotate the arm and bring the palm down. Press the fingers of your left hand down and distribute the weight evenly between the left hip and the front of the right thigh. Draw from your knees into the core of your pelvis and build a strong, balanced base.
Inhaling, press your left fingers to the floor, and lift from your waist to your shoulders. Bring your elbows closer together and bring your upper arms parallel. Powerfully pull back into your shoulders with your elbows while hollowing out the armpits. Exhaling, reach your left arm up and back, and hold your leg. Press your right foot into the resistance of your hands to deepen the shoulder stretch. Draw your shoulder blades into your back and lift your chest behind your heart.
Tilt your head back to touch your right foot. Stay in the pose for a few breaths, then exhale, release your hands one by one and lower your leg. Repeat on the other side.
Anatomy Engaging Techniques
- Contract your psoas and its synergists, your pectineus and adductors longus and brevis to flex and externally rotate the thigh of your front leg. An indication for engaging your psoas is to press down on the knee while attempting to lift it off the floor. Observe how your psoas tilts your pelvis forward and straightens your lower back.
- These movements work in rhythm with flexing and externally rotating your femur. Tilting your pelvis forward has the added benefit of releasing the iliofemoral ligament of your back hip. This ligament can limit extension of that hip and deepen your posture. Releasing this frees your rear hip to move forward.
- You can feel the sartorius running from the front of your pelvis to the inside of your knee. This muscle helps in flexing, abducting and externally rotating your femur. Engage your hamstrings to flex your knee joint and use them to maintain it as a hinge.
- Squeeze your sides of the buttocks to activate the components of your tensor fascia lata and gluteus medius that abduct your femur. These muscles are also the internal rotators of your hips.
- Muscles that have dual functions, such as abduction and internal rotation, can present a contradiction in yoga poses. In this case, abduction of your femur deepens the pose, while internal rotation of your femur restricts it. You deal with this by first freeing up your internal rotation components and then adding the abduction components as you deepen the posture.
- Your sartorius joins your gluteus medius and your tensor fascia lata in drawing your knee out to the side. Push your tailbone down to activate the deep external hip rotators.
- Your posterior hip expands, folds and rotates internally.
- Contract your gluteus maximus to extend your hip. Note that attaching to this muscle also rotates your femur outward.
- You want to rotate it internally in Pigeon Pose. Do this by engaging your gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata. The cue for this is to press the back thigh and knee into the floor and try to pull it outwards (abduction).
- The floor will constrain your knee so that there is really no abduction; However, it engages your gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata and internally rotates your femur. The posterior fibers of your gluteus medius also coordinate with your gluteus maximus in extending your hip.
- Contract your adductor magnus by pulling your knee toward the midline. Note how it improves your hip extension.
- Stretch your back and stretch your chest forward; It activates your erector spinae and other deep extensor muscles of your spine, including your quadratus lumborum.
- Contract your lower part of the trapezius to draw your shoulders away from your ears, and engage your rhomboids to bring your scapula toward each other.
- This opens your chest like a pigeon. Improve this opening by contracting your pectoralis minor and serratus anterior muscles.
Use your hand on the floor to raise your chest. Press down into the floor to fix your arm by contracting your triceps and straightening your elbow. Then try scrubbing backwards, activating the back of your deltoid. These actions lift your chest forward and up.
- Use your upper arm to create a deep extension of your back. Rotate your palm upward to accentuate your forearm. It engages your pronator teres and quadratus muscles.
- Contract your triceps to attempt to straighten your elbows, and externally rotate your shoulders by engaging your infraspinatus and small muscles. The force of these actions goes to your chest, pulling it upwards.
Modifying Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
- When you are unable to keep your hip on the floor, the leg is bent in the forward direction. Then a folded blanket or block should be placed under your right hip to reach the floor. Make sure your weight should be evenly distributed on both hips.
- If you can’t reach the floor, clench your fingers as you lean forward. The blocks should then be placed under your forearm or under your forehead to allow for a forward bend.
- Bring the left leg straight back to touch the head. With basic exercises, you may lose balance or find it difficult to keep a hand in that position. Therefore, to pull the left leg towards the head, the left leg should be tied with a rope or strap.
The effect on the body while practicing should be well understood, so that the practice can be made easy and accessible to others when taught. Some quick notable contraindications are explained below:
Weak internal organs
A weak internal organ that causes weak digestion cannot help in performing this asana without working on other simple asanas to improve the digestive system.
Pregnant women, weak heart and asthma
Deep depression and anxiety
A person suffering from deep depression and anxiety should avoid Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
With less flexibility, this pose can cause discomfort, and so work on flexibility with simple variations of Kapotasana before getting into this deep pose.
Individual with severe osteoporosis should avoid it because there is a lot of stress on the hip, knee and foot.