When we’re in a yoga class and we hear the teacher cue kapotasana we’re getting ready for a hip opener that will focus on both the hip rotators and the hip flexors. There are many variations of pigeon pose and the other benefits and sensations we experience will change depending on which option is offered, or more importantly, which version we know is best for our body in that moment. Sometimes we fold forward and allow it to be a bit more relaxing while stretching our gluteal muscles; other times we invigorate ourselves by pressing our fingertips into the floor to lift and open our chest, creating some strength to our back; or perhaps we want a deeper heart-opening backbend and catch our back foot with a strap or our hands. Each time you show up to your mat tune in to the teacher within and enjoy mimicking this bird.
Try these steps to get into Kapotasana:
- Start in downward facing dog. Inhale to lift your right leg up, keeping your pelvis level, and exhale to bring your right knee forward about halfway.
- Continue breathing as you pause here to externally rotate(turn out) your right hip, then lower your knee behind your right wrist and allow your shin also to lower down to your mat at a comfortable angle(not necessarily parallel to front of mat, unless your knees are healthy and this feels good in your body).
- Slide your left leg straight back, lowering your knee and thigh to the floor, encouraging your hips to square with the front of your mat. If your right buttock is unable to rest on the floor while keeping your hips square, then place a folded blanket or block underneath.
- Inhale as you press your fingertips to the floor beside you to lengthen your spine, being sure to draw your navel up and in and lengthen your tailbone. Feel free to stay here for 3-5 breaths.
- If you’d like, on your next exhale walk your hands out in front of you to fold forward. Feel free to stay propped up on your forearms, or you can fold all the way down resting your head on a block or the floor. Stay for 5-10 breaths before coming out. You may want to do a few hips circles before switching sides.
*Modification – Supta Kapotasana – Reclining Pigeon sometimes called Figure Four. Lie down on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor; cross right ankle over left thigh; if you want a deeper stretch hug your left knee toward your chest and clasp hands behind left thigh. Stay for 5-10 breaths then switch sides.
Benefits of Kaptoasana:
Opens hips and lengthens hip flexors
Stretches thighs, gluteal muscles and piriformis
Strengthens back muscles
Opens chest and shoulders
Can alleviate sciatic discomfort
Cautions of Kapotasana: