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Flying Pigeon Pose, also known as Eka Pada Galavasana, is an advanced yoga posture that provides a deep stretch for the hips, spine, chest and shoulders. Though challenging, regular practice of this pose can greatly improve flexibility, relieve back pain, and build confidence in more advanced yoga postures.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know as a yoga beginner to start working towards Flying Pigeon Pose, step-by-step.
What is Flying Pigeon Pose?
Flying Pigeon Pose is an arm balance that requires strength and flexibility throughout the body. To come into the full expression of the pose, you’ll need:
- Open hips to cross one ankle over the opposite thigh
- Strong core to maintain balance
- Flexible shoulders and chest to reach the arms back
- Hamstring flexibility to straighten the back leg
The name “Flying Pigeon” comes from the pose’s resemblance to a pigeon in flight, with one leg stretched back and the other bent underneath.
Though certainly an advanced posture, yoga beginners can work up to Flying Pigeon by building strength and flexibility in the required areas through foundational poses.
6 Benefits of Practicing Flying Pigeon Pose
Putting in the work to eventually master Flying Pigeon Pose provides a wide range of physical and mental benefits:
- Increases Spine and Chest Flexibility – The deep backbend stretches the entire front of the body, from the hip flexors to the abdominals, chest and shoulders.
- Opens the Hips – Crossing one ankle over the thigh requires external rotation of the hip joint, stretching the outer hips and hip flexors.
- Relieves Back Pain – Backbending postures like Flying Pigeon counteract rounded shoulders and poor posture, relieving compression and pain.
- Strengthens Arms and Wrists – Maintaining the arm balance shape strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists.
- Tones the Core – Engaging the deep abdominals is required to stabilize and control the posture.
- Builds Confidence – Mastering an advanced pose creates confidence in one’s yoga practice and self-belief.
As you can see, though certainly challenging, working towards Flying Pigeon Pose is incredibly rewarding for both beginner and advanced yoga practitioners alike.
How Should Yoga Beginners Approach Flying Pigeon?
Attempting such an advanced posture too early in one’s yoga practice can lead to injury or frustration. Here are some tips to approach Flying Pigeon safely as a beginner:
- Practice the foundational poses that build required flexibility and strength. We’ll cover these below.
- Use props like blocks and straps to modify the pose’s intensity.
- Go slowly and focus on alignment, not depth. Proper technique keeps you safe.
- Be patient and enjoy the process. Growth takes time and consistency. Celebrate small wins.
- Consider taking a class for hands-on adjustments and guidance from an experienced teacher.
The journey toward Flying Pigeon may take time before you can balance and extend the back leg. But by honing your practice of alignment-focused foundational poses, you’ll get there step-by-step.
10 Foundational Poses to Prepare for Flying Pigeon
Here are the top 10 beginner-friendly yoga poses to help prepare the hips, core, arms and flexibility needed for Flying Pigeon Pose:
1. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
- Strengthens legs and hip flexors
- Prepares for hip flexion of front leg
2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Chest opener
- Strengthens back body
3. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
- Chest and shoulder opener
- Strengthens arms and wrists
4. Floor Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Hip and chest opener
- Strengthens back body
5. Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
- Hamstring stretch
- Prepares for straight back leg
6. Reclining Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Spinal twist
- Releases lower back
7. Boat Pose (Navasana)
- Tones the core
- Strengthens low back
8. Plank (Phalakasana)
- Strengthens arms and wrists
- Tones abdominals
9. Crow Pose (Bakasana)
- Prepares arm balance foundation
- Wrist and shoulder strengthener
10. Lizard Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)
- Opens hips
- Stretches hip flexors
Practicing this sequence of preparatory poses will lay the full foundation you need – flexibility, strength, balance – before attempting the complete expression of Flying Pigeon. Use props like blocks and straps to modify intensity as needed.
Focus on proper alignment over depth, and be patient with your body as the flexibility and strength develops. Move through the preparatory poses dynamically to build heat and keep the energy flowing.
Step-By-Step Technique for Flying Pigeon Pose
Once you’ve built a solid foundation, you’ll be ready to start moving through the basic shape of Flying Pigeon Pose. Here is a step-by-step technique breakdown:
- Start in a low squat, with your feet hip-width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, pressing your right knee open. Sink your hips low.
- Hinge forward at the hips and place both hands on the floor. Press firmly through your whole palms and spread your fingers wide.
- Shift your weight forward and hook your right toes around your left tricep, drawing your right shin up onto your upper left arm.
- Bend your elbows deeply, keeping them tucked close to your side body. Lean your chest forward between your arms, coming into a Chaturanga shape.
- Press down firmly through your palms to help lift your hips up high. Straighten your left leg behind you, flexing the foot.
- Keep pressing down through your base hand, engaging your core, and lifting your chest to come into the full expression of the pose.
- Hold for 5 full breaths, then release back down slowly with control.
Repeat on the second side, crossing left ankle over right thigh. Move slowly with control, and use props or modifications to make the shape more accessible.
Modifications to Make Flying Pigeon More Accessible
Don’t be discouraged if the full pose doesn’t come instantly. There are many modifications to make Flying Pigeon more accessible as you build strength and flexibility.
Use Blocks Under Hands
Blocks under the base hand shorten the lever of the arms, making the posture less weight-bearing.
Keep Back Knee Bent
Bending the back knee will allow you to still hook the foot, opening the hips without the demand of a straight leg.
Practice Near a Wall
Practicing next to a wall allows you to press the lifted foot into the wall for support and balance assistance.
Use a Strap Around Arms
A strap wrapped around the upper arms helps keep the elbows tucked into the ribs for better alignment.
Place Head on Bolster
Resting your head on a bolster reduces neck strain. Allow the head and neck to relax.
Be creative with props and modifications as you slowly work up to the full expression of Flying Pigeon. This will keep you safe while still gaining all the same benefits.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Flying Pigeon Pose
To protect your body and get the most from your practice, be sure to avoid these misalignments:
- Letting the lifted hip sink down, instead of keeping hips squared
- Straining or collapsing into the lower back
- Letting the head and neck tighten or crunch
- Gripping or tense shoulders instead of firm, relaxed muscles
- Sagging into the base wrist instead of pressing firmly through the whole palm
- Forcing depth or back leg straightening before ready
Going slow and focusing on foundation strength and flexibility is key to avoiding injury or misalignment. Be patient with your process and celebrate each small step forward.
Sample Flying Pigeon Yoga Sequence for Beginners
Here is a sample sequence integrating foundational prep poses to start working towards Flying Pigeon Pose as a beginner:
- Cat/Cow – 5 rounds
- Downward Facing Dog – 5 breaths
- Low Lunge – 5 breaths each side
- Bridge Pose – 5 breaths
- Boat Pose – 5 breaths
- Plank – 5 breaths
- Lizard Lunge – 5 breaths each side
- Reclining Twist – 5 breaths each side
- Flying Pigeon Prep – 5 breaths each side
- Legs Up the Wall – 5 minutes
Move slowly through the sequence, focusing on alignment and technique. Modify poses as needed, and end with a restorative inversion like Legs Up the Wall to allow your body to integrate the benefits.
Be sure to incorporate prep poses into your regular practice. Over time, you’ll gain the required flexibility, strength and balance needed to fly into the full expression of Eka Pada Galavasana.
Though certainly an advanced yoga pose requiring strength and flexibility throughout the body, Flying Pigeon Pose can be accessible for beginners through mindful preparation.
By practicing foundational poses focused on opening the hips, spine and shoulders, strengthening the core, arms and wrists, and improving balance, yogis of all levels can start working towards flight.
Remember to celebrate small successes, use props when needed, focus on proper alignment, and enjoy the journey! With regular practice, Flying Pigeon can help improve flexibility, build confidence, relieve back pain and feel the joy of flight.