Elegant, exuberant, graceful, wow! These are just some words that come to mind when seeing a yogi in full King Pigeon Pose.
That being said, this pose is not for every body. For many experienced yogis, Raja Kapotasana is elusive, and that goes for the writer of this article as well. I can achieve King Pigeon on only a really, really good day.
In order to prep for this pose, you’ll need to open the hips, the back, the shoulders, the chest and the quads. That’s quite the laundry list of asana. This is also why Raja Kapotasana is usually attempted toward the end of a practice. Poses like Crescent Lunge, Cow Face Pose, Garland Pose, Camel Pose, and Lizard Lunge are all great precursors to King Pigeon.
I would also highly recommend using a strap for a while until the asana becomes more familiar in the body.
To start, make your way into Pigeon Pose. Let’s start with the right leg forward and the left leg behind. Try to keep the hips square to the front of the mat.
Ensure that the knee is safe by gently guiding the right femur bone back. Or, if in your Pigeon Pose the right shinbone aligns parallel with the front of your yoga mat, just flex the right foot. Hold Pigeon Pose for a few breaths.
Slowly begin to walk the hands back until they are on either sides of the hips and the body is upright. Take a few breaths here. On the inhales attempt to lift the sternum up toward the sky. On the exhales try to roll the shoulder blades down the back. Make sure to engage mula bandha and point the tailbone just slightly toward the ground to take any tension out of the lower back.
Bend the back knee. Start by hooking the left big toe into the left elbow crease, or just hold the foot and push it down to stretch out the quad. Test your balance here by lifting the right arm off of the ground. Look skyward if you can.
If you are using a strap, loop the strap around the left foot. Otherwise flex the left foot and reach the left arm with the hand facing open toward the outside of the right ankle. Keep reaching and try to grab the big toe. Then climb the hand up as much as you can so you are holding as much of the foot as you’re able.
Then draw the left elbow toward the body, as if you’re gesturing “YES!” then push the elbow forward in front of you and up toward the sky.
Roll the shoulders back and down. Lift the heart up!
Now take the right arm and circle it up toward the sky and bend the elbow attempting to grab the left wrist, or your strap. If you’ve got this, start walking the fingers down the strap or your wrist until eventually you are grabbing the left foot with both hands.
Again draw the shoulder blades down the back and lift the heart up. If it feels good for you, draw the elbows together and tip the head back until the crown of the head touches the toes.
King Pigeon requires patience, practice and a serious warm up to get there. Even still, it may not be accessible for all bodies. Start where you are. Move from there and enjoy every discovery along the journey.