How to Do Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Pigeon pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Pigeon Prep

Targets: Hip opener

Equipment: Mat

Level: Intermediate

Pigeon Pose is a hip opener forward bend. There are three primary versions of Pigeon Pose, each building upon the one before. This version is the first stage and it is the one you will commonly practice in yoga class. The next is Mermaid Pose and the full pose is One-Legged King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). Expect to spend some time getting comfortable in each pose before moving to the next step.

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Watch Now: How to Stretch Your Hips with Pigeon Pose

Benefits

Pigeon Pose specifically works as a hip opener and forward bend, stretching your thighs, groin, back, piriformis, and psoas. The leg extended to the rear gets a stretch of the psoas and other hip flexors. On the other side, the rotators and outer hip are stretched. It is a good antidote to sitting for long periods. It prepares you for seated postures and backbends.

Step-by-Step Instructions

There are a few different ways to approach Pigeon Pose. One of the simplest is from Downward Facing Dog. You can follow the same directions starting from your hands and knees position if you prefer.

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, bring the right leg up into a Down Dog Split.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of placing your foot down as you would for a lunge, bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand. The right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility.
  3. Release your left knee to your mat. Your left leg should be flat on the floor. Take a look backward and make sure that your left foot is pointing straight back.
  4. Square your hips towards the front of your mat.
  5. Take padding (a folded blanket works well) under the right side of your hip as necessary to make the pose more comfortable. If you are new to the pose, you can halt here.
  6. If you feel stable, bring your torso down into a forward bend over your right leg.
  7. Let the weight of your body rest on your right leg. Place your forehead on the floor.
  8. Continue squaring your hips and breathing into any tightness.
  1. Come back up, bringing your hands in line with your hips.
  2. To release, curl your left toes under and step back into a Downward Facing Dog.
  3. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors to get the most out of this pose.

Rotated Rear Leg

Your rear leg should be in a neutral position rather than rotated outward. To correct this, tuck your toes under and lift your thigh to adjust so your hips are square.

Hips Not Square

Don't collapse onto the hip of the front bent knee. Keep your hips square, propped with padding as needed.

Modifications and Variations

You can tailor the Pigeon Pose to best fit your body by following these strategies. Work on getting a deeper stretch or keep it more modest—whatever works best for your body. 

Need a Modification?

To make this more comfortable (and more effective) for a beginner, you can take a few extra steps and precautions. 

Check the hip of the leg that is bent in front of you. If the hip doesn't touch the floor, be sure to take adequate padding under the butt on that side. If necessary, use several blankets or a block. It's important to evenly distribute your weight between both hips and keep them square toward the ground. Otherwise, you will be placing stress on the knee and twisting your sacrum.

If the forward bend is difficult, use a block under your forearms and/or under your forehead. Try to create a support system of props that allows you to relax in the forward bend.

If the Pigeon Pose just doesn't work for you, Eye of the Needle (Succirandrasana) is a good substitute.

Up for a Challenge?

If you're more flexible, start to bring your right shin more parallel to the front of the mat.

As you become more advanced, you can add a backbend:

  1. Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand.
  2. Draw your foot towards your butt, stretching your left quad.
  3. Square your shoulders to the front of the room.
  4. Release your left foot, curl your left toes under and step back into a Downward Facing Dog.

From here, you can move on to Mermaid Pose or the full version of the One-Legged King Pigeon Pose.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have any knee injury or hip problem. You should not feel any stress on the knee. You will feel rotation of your femur in the hip socket and a great stretch along the front of the hip, but it should not be painful.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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