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

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Hip opener

Equipment: Mat

Level: Intermediate

Pigeon pose is a hip-opening 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. Expect to spend some time getting comfortable in each pose before moving to the next step.


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


Watch Now: How to Stretch Your Hips with Pigeon Pose

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 range of motion.
  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.
  6. If you feel stable, bring your torso down into a forward bend over your right leg.
  7. Keep hips square and weight balanced equally on both sides as best you can. If this feels too intense, place a blanket or block or under the hip or back knee. Reach your forehead toward the floor.
  8. Continue squaring your hips and breathing into any tightness.
  9. Come back up, bringing your hands in line with your hips.
  10. To release, curl your left toes under and step back into a Downward Facing Dog.
  11. 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?

As you become more advanced, you can move on to Mermaid pose or the full version of the One-Legged King Pigeon Pose. There are three different ways to explore Pigeon. These instructions are for when the right knee is in front of you and the left leg is stretched behind.

  1. Quad stretch: Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand while lifting your right arm up towards the sky.
  2. Mermaid pose: Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand. Hook the bend of your left arm around the top of your left foot. Once you have the hook, reach your right arm up and back to clasp the left fingertips or wrist.
  3. One-Legged King Pigeon: Bend your left knee and reach back for the left side of your foot with your left hand as left elbow points up towards the sky. Once you have the foot, invite your right arm to also reach up and back and grab hold of the right side of the foot.

How to Prepare

Eye of the Needle Pose is one of the best preparatory postures you can do for Pigeon Pose, especially if you have tight hips.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and find a neutral spine.
  2. Lift one foot and cross the ankle on the opposite thigh, just above the knee.
  3. Interlace your hands behind the back of the opposite thigh and exhale as you draw both legs in closer to your chest.
  4. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.

For a more active hip opener, you can also try a standing Figure-Four pose, also known as One-Legged Chair pose, to prepare for Pigeon.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have any knee injury or hip issues. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles does Pigeon pose stretch?

As a hip opener, Pigeon Pose stretches the outer hip, thigh, groin, and back, and also the piriformis, and psoas muscles. The extended leg also receives a hip flexor stretch.

Who should avoid Pigeon pose?

Those with knee, hip, or back issues may want to avoid Pigeon pose, and it may be uncomfortable in later stages of pregnancy. As with all yoga poses, any pose that causes physical discomfort or pain should be stopped immediately and avoided or modified.

How can you ease into Pigeon pose?

Work your way into Pigeon Pose by placing a folded blanket or block underneath your seat for support. Hold the posture with an upright torso instead of folding forward. If this is still not accessible to you, lie on your back and perform Eye of the Needle Pose instead.

Try It Out

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

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hebshi S. Yoga poses to pair with your high-intensity interval training. American Council on Exercise. 2016.

  2. One-legged king pigeon pose. Yoga Journal. 2017.

  3. Parkes S. The Student's Manual of Yoga Anatomy: 30 Essential Poses Analyzed, Explained, and Illustrated. Fair Winds Press, 2016.

  4. Haegberg K. Seven tips for a more pleasant pigeon pose. Yoga International.

  5. Crandell J. Mastering sleeping pigeon pose in 4 steps. Yoga Journal. 2017.

  6. Pigeon Pose: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. Gaia.  

  7. How to be a mermaid: smart sequencing for Naginyasana. Yoga Anatomy. 2016.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.