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King Pigeon Pose provides an intensely invigorating stretch through the hips, chest and shoulders. Along with physical benefits, the elegance of the posture cultivates grace, relaxation and emotional openness.
The King Pigeon Pose requires the perfection of foundational hip openers like Pigeon Pose, along with diligent preparation and sequencing.
When performed with mindfulness, King Pigeon provides tremendous benefits both physically & mentally.
- physically opening the hips, chest and shoulders.
- mentally promoting calmness and clarity.
However, this advanced posture must be approached consciously and only when ready.
This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about King Pigeon Pose: step-by-step instructions, modifications, sequencing, its meaning and benefits.
What is King Pigeon Pose?
King Pigeon Pose is an advanced backbend variation of Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana).
It involves taking one leg back in a deep external hip rotation, then bending the knee to bring the foot towards the head (check image). The grip is ‘flipped’ by reaching the hand on the same side as the back leg across to clasp the foot before lifting the elbow skyward in a backbend.
King Pigeon Pose builds upon the foundation of the hip opening created in Pigeon, incorporating intense back bending of the spine and deep stretching of the shoulders. It is considered a ‘peak pose’ in styles like Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga and is usually sequenced towards the end of practice.
It is sometimes called One-Legged King Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II to distinguish it from the seated variation without backbending.
The Sanskrit name translates to:
- Eka: One
- Pada: Foot
- Raja: King
- Kapota: Pigeon
- Asana: Pose
6 Benefits of Practicing King Pigeon Pose
When performed correctly, King Pigeon Pose provides tremendous benefits for both body and mind:
- Deeply opens the hips, groins and thighs – Excellent for countering tightness from prolonged sitting.
- Stretches the entire front of the body, including the hip flexors, abdomen and chest.
- Strengthens the back muscles and improves spinal flexibility.
- Expands lung capacity and breathing by opening the chest.
- Stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion.
- Calms the mind, reduces stress and induces mental clarity.
However, attempting this pose without proper preparation carries a high risk of injury. It must be approached gradually with mindfulness and care.
How to Perform King Pigeon Pose Safely
Follow these step-by-step instructions to experience the benefits of King Pigeon safely:
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Inhale and bring your right leg up and forward to step between your hands.
- Your right knee should land just outside your right wrist. Slide your right foot in towards the left edge of the mat.
- Exhale and extend your left leg straight back, tops of the feet pressed down. Check that your hips are squared forward.
- Stay upright with hands on either side of your front leg. Walk your foot farther in to intensify the stretch without torquing the knee.
- When ready, begin to walk your hands back. Press your chest forward and lean your torso over your front leg. Stay for a few breaths.
- To prepare for the backbend, bend your back left knee and reach for your left foot with your left hand.
- Rotate your arm so your left elbow points up and spin your torso back to the centre.
- Reach your right hand up and back to grab the foot. Lift your chest, push your foot into your hand, and drop your head back.
- Breathe deeply and focus on relaxation. Release mindfully and repeat for the second side.
6 Essential Tips for Practicing King Pigeon Safely
- Always warm up properly with hip openers before attempting this pose.
- Use props like blankets or blocks under the hip to keep the pelvis level.
- Never force the stretch – ease into it gently until you reach your comfortable edge.
- Modify by extending the back leg if bending the knee causes discomfort.
- Focus on lengthening the spine rather than crunching the lower back.
- Exit slowly and mindfully. Counter with a gentle forward fold.
Sequencing for King Pigeon
Proper sequencing is key to safely preparing the body for this advanced backbend:
- Sun Salutations
- Gentle standing and seated hip openers like Warrior II, Low Lunge, Supine Pigeon
- Intense hip openers – Pigeon, Lizard, Figure 4 Stretch
- Backbends – Cobra, Camel, Bridge
- Shoulder openers – Cow Face Pose, Eagle Arms
- King Pigeon Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Reclined Twist
- Forward folds
Mastering Modifications for King Pigeon Pose
Here are some helpful modifications to work towards the full expression of King Pigeon Pose:
Support Under Hips
Elevate your hips with a block or blanket under the front leg to keep the pelvis squared if it doesn’t reach the floor.
Back Leg Extended
Keep your back leg straight without bending the knee if the thigh stretch strains your knee.
Strap Around Ankle
If your shoulders lack the flexibility to reach back, use a strap around the ankle of your back leg. Keep the arm position and work on the shoulder rotation.
Against a Wall
Practice with your back leg lifted and your foot resting on a wall. Pad the knee and work on your reach.
Low Back Support
Place a block lengthwise along your back for support if leaning forward strains your back.
Eye of the Needle
Try this hip opener supine by crossing one ankle over the opposite thigh if Pigeon strains your knees or hips.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Stay mindful and avoid these common misalignments:
- Collapsing all weight into the front bent knee instead of evenly distributing between both hips.
- Allowing the back knee to sickle inwards instead of keeping it pointing straight backwards.
- Crunching the low back rather than lengthening the spine.
- Forcing the stretch and compromising the knees. Go only to your comfortable edge.
- Holding the breath instead of breathing smoothly.
King Pigeon Pose FAQs
Is King Pigeon Pose dangerous?
It can be dangerous if attempted without proper warm-up or alignment. Go slowly, use props, and modify if you feel any pinching in the hips or knees. Avoid low back crunching.
How is King Pigeon different from Pigeon Pose?
Pigeon Pose is the seated variation focusing mainly on hip opening. King Pigeon adds an intense backbend along with shoulder and thigh stretching by bending the back leg.
What muscles does King Pigeon stretch?
It deeply stretches the hips, groins, hip flexors, thighs, abdomen, chest, spine extensors, shoulders and neck.
What are some preparatory and counter poses?
Good warm-ups are Forward Folds, Warrior II, and Low Lunge. Counters are Child’s Pose, Supine Twist, and Reclined Butterfly.
Can beginners do King Pigeon Pose?
It is not recommended for beginners. Work up to it gradually after gaining experience with hip openers like Pigeon and having good spinal flexibility.
Approach this apex posture gradually and lovingly. Be patient with yourself through modifications until your body gains the required flexibility. The journey itself will be transformational.