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Let Your Pigeon Soar ~ Part One
by Tarra Madore

Spring is here! The birds are chirping, new grass is sprouting up, and just about everybody is ready to let go of the winter. It is a wonderful time to practice Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or One-Leg King of the Pigeons Pose. This amazing pose helps open the hips and release stored emotions that are no longer life enhancing. It tones and strengthens the legs and core – great for the season where we start to shed some layers of clothes. It is also a refreshing pose that lifts your spirits and opens your heart. 

Caution: This pose should be taught to you by a professional. This article is meant to help you enhance your practice of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. If you have never done this pose, please ask your yoga teacher for help. It is helpful to do warm-ups and standing poses before pigeon prep as well as backbends before the full form of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 1.

Coming into this pose can be tricky if you are new to yoga. One way to come into pigeon is to start in Downward-Facing Dog and step your right leg forward so your knee is behind your right hand. If that is challenging, start toward the front of your mat on your knees, move your right knee diagonally to the right. However you initiate the pose, you want to make sure that your right knee is wider than your right hip. Place both hands on the mat to help steady your position. Make sure that you square your pelvis toward the top of your mat and do not sit to the right side. Allow your shin and foot to line up and face toward your left upper thigh. Take a breath or two as you press your toes down into the mat. Keeping the toes active will keep you lower leg muscles engaged, thus hugging your shin in toward your midline and opening your hip.

Some teachers invite students to completely relax the legs. Unfortunately this instruction can cause a number of injuries and will keep you from enjoying the full benefits of strength and flexibility available in this pose. Follow these simple instructions to keep the leg active and help your pigeon soar! Keep the knee of the back leg down with the toes tucked under (on the ball of your foot). Ensure that the shin of the back leg hugs toward the midline, avoiding the tendency to allow it to bow out to the side. Check back to make sure your heel is right over the ball of your foot. Engage the front leg as well, pressing the toes into the mat. Now do the action of dragging your back knee and front leg toward each other. When you do that action, you should feel a lift in your core (the pelvis lifts away from the floor). This action is a sweet embrace of the leg muscles from the feet all the way up to the low back. It gives you power and alignment. Doing this action, you should be able to feel the thigh bone press to the back of the hamstring muscle. It will also engage your inner thigh muscles which will help with the next action.

Move your thighs back and apart so that you feel a widening through the back of the thighs, hips and lower back. If you fold slightly forward and look down toward your navel you can really root your thighs back. With the thigh bones rooted back, lengthen your tailbone away from your waist and down toward the mat. The action of scooping your tailbone will lift and tone your lower belly. Be careful not to let the thighs pop forward when you scoop the tailbone. With all that in place, your back leg may begin to slide back. You will gain length without letting your abdomen collapse onto your thigh. All of these actions provide a lot to think about in this pose. However, working the lower body will allow you to express more freedom and ease in the pose. To sum up the lower body actions: take a moment to settle into your breath; engage your leg muscles as you press your thighs back and draw your tailbone down; strengthen your lower belly as you extend the spine from the tail bone to the crown of your head.

Up until now we haven’t yet discussed the upper body. There are many variations of this pose. If you are newer to the pose you may want to try a simpler variation. As you breathe in, fill your body and expand through your chest. Lift your heart and let the sides of your body lengthen up. Your legs should feel rooted down as your upper body feels light and buoyant. You can stop here to take a few slow, full breaths in the pose and then switch sides.

Check out a part two of the article coming next week on how to turn your well-aligned pigeon prep pose into a pigeon that is ready to fly!


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About the Author

Tarra Piparo Madore is a yoga instructor and retired chiropractor who has studied at Palmer College of Chiropractic, Himalayan Institute and most recently with senior certified Anusara teachers Naime Jezzeny and Sue Elkind. She is Director of Inner Light Yoga Center in North Brunswick, NJ and is also Co-Publisher and Creative Director for New Jersey Namaste News magazine.









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