One mouthful of a name gives you two hip-fuls of goodness! When we break down the name - eka: one, pada: foot/leg, raja: king, kapota: pigeon, asana: pose - we get one-legged king pigeon pose. Today we’ll look at the forward bend variation, also known as Sleeping Pigeon.
Sleeping pigeon is a go-to hip opener for many yogis, however its benefits go far beyond loosening tight hips. The fold of the front leg is a powerful digestive aid while the extension of the back leg targets the hip flexors and releases the psoas, a long muscle that connects the spine to the legs and affects the diaphragm - commonly referred to as the central muscle of breathing.
How beautiful would it be to breathe with our diaphragm’s full range of motion :)?
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).
As you inhale, lift your left leg up high coming to Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog split).
On the exhale, shift your weight slightly forward, bend the left knee and place the left shin and top of the left foot behind your wrists and onto the mat.
Extend the top of the right leg against the back of the mat and untuck your toes.
In this variation, I recommend you have the knee in a deep bend with the heel of the left foot in your lower belly, close to the right hip point. When paired with the forward fold of the upper body, the heel of the left foot gently massages the psoas region.
Check that the hips don’t spill to either side and the weight is evenly distributed between the left and right.
Inhale, plant the hands down, lift the chest and feel the extension in the front part of the spine.
Exhale, fold over your bent left leg incorporating as much length into the front of the spine as possible. Make a pillow with your hands and rest your forehead on the pillow. If your head doesn’t lower to meet your hands, grab a yoga block, book or rolled up blanket/towel to rest your head.
Stay for 5 cycles of breath.
To come out of the pose bring your hands underneath your shoulders, exhale and press down to come back to step 7.
As you exhale, tuck your right toes and lift your right knee off the floor.
On an inhale, lift the left leg back into downward dog split. Exhale to step the left foot back to downward facing dog.
Stay for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.