Sleeping Pigeon pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, is one of the best hip openers for several reasons. First, there are several ways to practice this pose. Second, no matter which variation of this pose you practice, you will surely open your hips. Third, variations of Pigeon pose are numerous. As you advance, there will undoubtedly be a new version of Pigeon to challenge you.
For today, though, we’re just going to learn the prep and Sleeping Pigeon pose. For both of these postures, I want you to really focus on your alignment and the angle of your pelvis. It is really common, as we get into the prep or full Sleeping Pigeon position, to tilt the pelvis or let it drop to one side or the other. Our goal throughout is to keep a level, neutral pelvis.
Sleeping Pigeon Pose Prep
- Use ujjayi breathing.
- Begin on your back with your pelvis in neutral, knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones.
- Lift your right leg and cross your right ankle just beneath your left knee on your thigh. Make sure the right ankle is off the left thigh. This way, the ankle bone doesn’t press into your quadriceps (thigh muscles).
- You have just made a “Figure 4” of sorts. When I was a personal trainer, that’s what we called this stretch, so you may know it by this name, too.
- If you don’t feel a stretch yet, lift your left foot off of the ground. Bring your left knee toward your left shoulder. Make sure that your pelvis has not shifted, rocked, or tilted so you can bring your leg up. If it has, lower your foot and get your pelvis back in neutral. The next time you lift, only lift up part way and place your foot on a prop like a block. Keeping a neutral pelvis is crucial.
- You have a couple of choices for hand placement. First, you can lace your fingers behind your left thigh so that your arms are helping pull your legs toward you. Second, you can place your left hand on the heel of your right foot and your right hand on your right knee. Press your hands toward each other. This should help you get a deeper stretch into your hip.
- Hold here for 5-10 breaths.
- When you are finished, keep muscular energy as you lower and reverse sequence to do the other side. Be aware that the flexibility of your right side and your left side may differ dramatically.
Sleeping Pigeon Pose
- Use ujjayi breathing.
- Begin in Downward facing dog.
- This is a great moment to really engage Uddiyana bandha and really draw your belly button in and up.
- Lift your right leg and reach it for the top corner of the wall behind you.
- Take a nice inhale and, on the exhale, lift your belly as you bring your right knee to the mat just to the outside of your right hand.
- Keep your left toes curled under to make sure that your foot stays straight.
- While keeping your pelvis neutral, start lowering your upper body. First, come down to your forearms. Then, if you can lower further, lower so you’re resting on the ground. As you are lowering, pay attention to your pelvis. Make sure it stays in neutral and level from side to side. There is a tendency to want to drop the left hip toward the floor here. Instead, keep the lift so your pelvis is even.
- Once you are set, you can uncurl your toes if your foot can stay in neutral. If your foot turns in or out, curl your toes under until your foot and ankle can learn how to be neutral.
- Hold here for 5 or more breaths. If you’re really working on a deep hip opening, you may want to hold here for a minute or more. Be careful, though, that you don’t over-do it, and always maintain muscular energy.
- To come out of this pose, plant your hands, curl your left toes under, and lift from your low belly and pelvis. You should be able to smoothly press back into Downward facing dog. This allows you to repeat steps 3-10 for the other side. Make sure that you spend as much time on the left side as you did on the right.
Sleeping Pigeon Pose Video
Here is a video for visual learners.
What is your favorite hip opener? Let us know in the comments below.
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