Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana translates as the One-legged Royal Pigeon Pose. It sounds a bit strange, “the Royal Pigeon”, for the pigeons we all encounter in and around the city center are but a nuisance and downright dirty. The common pigeon is hardly royal, more like a pauper. The Pauper Pigeon pose? No that is worse. I think the name should be changed all together to the Royal Falcon Pose. After all, NYC imported a number of Peregrine’s to help cut the pigeon population. Plus the Peregrine is Eno’s (our seven year old) favorite bird for it can fly up to 175 miles per hour. But alas the shape of the pose is meant to resemble the breast of a pigeon, so here we go….
This pose is advanced and many (including cover girls on the front of contemporary yoga mags) do not set the alignment right. There are three primary ways to prep it.
1.) Externally Rotate the hips
2.) Extend the spine/stretch the quads
3.) Externally rotate the arms, extend the thoracic spine
So first work in the first arena. More passive hip openers include sukhasana (as a forward bend), cow pose (as a forward bend) and “double pigeon” with one leg on top of the other. This prepares for the position of the front leg in Kapotasana. Also, do active standing poses to really warm the hips and lower back. Include Warrior I, revolved triangle and revolved flank.
Then prepare the quadriceps by doing eka pada virasana. This can be done kneeling at the wall, to stretch the quad of the back leg. It can also be done supine. Do some backbends to prepare, such as cobra, upward dog, and eka pada bhekasana, the “half frog” position.
Prepare the shoulders with downward dog, and pinchamayurasana, or more simply, the forearm dog.
Begin Eka Raja Kapotasana by utilizing the wall like you did for the quad stretch. Make sure that your back knee is in line with the outer hip (on the leg that is stretching the quad), it tends to slide out and this will sheer the sacrum out of place.
Start with the foot of the front leg close to the hip so you can bring your pelvis down as low as possible. Support your sitting bone of your front leg if it is elevated up off the floor. Don’t go forward to the ground, because then your pigeon will surely drown. Stay upright and lengthen backward, to the extent your quad and psoas will allow. Do not force your lumbar spine!
Once working it against the wall, try the second stage in the middle of the room. Begin looping a strap over your back foot. If you go for the foot too soon you can easily jam your spine! Push your elbows upward in the way you did pinchamayurasana. Avoid twisting or distorting your spine in order to catch your foot. Be patient and humble…. A humble pigeon (waiting to be reborn as a hawk). At least it has a wide open chest.