What, Exactly, Is Pigeon Pose?!
Pigeon pose seems like it’s in every yoga class. And it also seems like it’s a totally different pose depending on which teacher is teaching it.
Sometimes it’s called Flying Pigeon. Other times Forward Lying Pigeon. Maybe you’ve heard of Double Pigeon, or One Legged Pigeon? Oh and there is King Pigeon. And just plain old Pigeon.
This is so confusing!
For the most common Pigeon poses, the front leg is turned out and flexed at the hip. In these asymmetrical postures, with one leg forward and the other back, your front knee will be at something like a ninety degree angle.
The angle will be more acute if your glutes and hips are tighter. As you get more limber in your outer hips, usually the knee angle stays the same, but you move your foot further forwards away from your hips. Let’s look at some of these yoga poses now.
Double Pigeon (a.k.a. Fire Log pose) : Agni Stambasana
In this seated posture, both legs form the classic right angle knee position of Pigeon pose. The legs are stacked, with shins parallel to the belly, like two logs in a fire.
Sitting upright and allowing the knees to release down is stage one of this posture. Later, taking a forward fold over the legs is an option for deepening the experience.
Standing Pigeon : Sucirandrasana
If you take the front leg of your pigeon position into a standing posture, crossing one ankle over the other knee you get an excellent hip stretch, while also practicing balance. This is a wonderful yoga pose in and of itself, but is often used in preparation for Flying Pigeon (see below). Note that this can also be done seated, or reclining.
Flying Pigeon : Eka Pada Galavasana
This can feel like a really burly arm balance if you do not have open hips. Here, in order to fly, its required that you have the front leg at the ninety degree expression of the pose. The pigeon leg is then placed on the shelf of your upper arms. To lift off you have to lean forward and push down with the front leg like crazy!
Downward Facing One Legged King Pigeon Pose (a.k.a. Pigeon Prep) : Adho Mukha Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
This is the pose that many students think of when they hear the word Pigeon. The front knee is slid forward, the angle more acute or obtuse depending on your flexibility.
Taking this form of the pose is a deep hip stretch and a way to learn the necessary actions to take the upright, back bending version of the full posture.
One Legged King Pigeon Pose 1 : Eka Pada Rajakapotasna 1
This is the most classic version of the one legged Pigeon pose family. However, there are four different variations. In version 1, the front leg is the same as in all the above postures.
But here is where we begin to diverge from the front leg as a defining shape of the Pigeon pose. Now we see a shift to focus on the radical back bend made when you clasp your back foot.
For the other three versions of this pose, the shape of the backbend stays constant while the front leg changes position. (I’ve only got myself in three of the four; looks like it’s time for a photo shoot!)
One Legged King Pigeon Pose 2 : Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 2
One Legged King Pigeon Pose 4 : Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 4
Pigeon Pose : Kapotasana
Please excuse the type and instructions written over the image. I stole this picture from my Instagram account where it was being used for teaching purposes in a yoga challenge I was leading. (PS: I will be leading another one on the basics of arm balances starting March 19th if you’re interested!)
The last version of Pigeon pose we will look at is a symmetrical one. Here the pose maintains the shape of the clasping-foot-backbend, but it is flipped face up and you hold both feet.
Turn this shape over, entering it from Cobra pose, bend your knees until your toes touch your head and you have King Pigeon Pose, Rajakapotasana.