Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Pigeon Pose

sport-yoga-pigeon-poseBy Mark Goldstein

May’s Pose of the Month is Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or Pigeon Pose.

This pose is a wonderful hip opener, because of that it can help out many types of lower back pain. As a massage therapist, the most common issue that I hear from clients is regarding back pain. Of course it can feel wonderful to have some great massage strokes done to your back when you are in pain, but, I find that whether we are healing through massage or yoga, that we always need to address the front of the body too in order to really make your back feel better.

As you will see, Pigeon Pose is a great way to do this through yoga.
Playa Yoga

Pigeon pose can deeply open up our hips, which is an amazing thing to do. If you have ever taken a great hip opening yoga class, then you know what I mean. After the class, you almost can’t help walking around with your hands on your hips saying out load “ooooo wow, I never know my hips could feel so wiggly” …..and I’m talking grown men too!

I would like to focus on two aspects, or positions, of Pigeon Pose. The upward and downward positions. The pictures show these two positions.

In the first position, you are focusing on elongating the front of your hip. With your leg extended behind you, you are stretching your Psoas muscle on that side. It is not important that you know the name, but it is very helpful to be able to visualize this muscle when in the pose.

Your Psoas muscle is a very deep muscle that is attached to your lower spine. It comes down through the front of your hips, and attaches to your inner thigh bone. So, you can imagine that if this very large muscle was tight, then it would pull on your lower back, and possibly cause some issues.

When we are in the upright aspect of Pigeon we are demonstrating the reason for the name. Our chests are very open, and almost jutting out, like a proud pigeon strutting around. Our chest is lifting, and our back leg is extending behind us. The crown of your head is reaching for the sky, as your hips are rooting into the ground.

Positioning is very important in Pigeon, and you must always strive to keep your hips squared. In other words, try to not lean your hips to one side. A yoga block or folded towel placed underneath your butt on your bent leg side can help with this.

Hold this position for five or ten deep breaths. As always, try to become deeply aware of your own body, and search to realize “which muscles do I need to use, and which ones may I release?” And then release them. That’s where the Yoga is Happening.

yogaOn an exhale we transition into the forward bending aspect of the pose.

As we exhale we lower forward and downward. It is very important that we lead with our chests, rather than with our heads. Focus in laying your navel in front of your ankle of your bent leg. Once you have lowered down completely, you will most likely feel a stretch deep in your hip on the back side. It can feel sort of achy, and that is OK.

Check in to be sure that your hips are still squared. If you lifted off your block, then you have come out of the pose.

In this position you are giving a nice deep stretch to your Piriformis muscle. This is a deep hip rotator muscle. The achyness that comes along with this is due your Sciatic nerve running right through the belly of the muscle that you are stretching. This is good. Doing this stretch can help out enormously with sciatic pain issues, which can show up in your lower back, hip or leg.

Once you are in the downward position, settle in, and breath for five or ten breaths, and let go.

There are variations that can take you much further into the pose, and some changes that can make it easier for those with injuries that might limit them in this pose.

If you do experience any knee pain in this, or any pose, back off and adjust until there is no pain.

There are a number of other hip opening poses that can lead up to this pose. Pigeon pose can also be used to warm you up for some even deeper hip openers.

Opening up your hips in yoga can lead to great things. You may be able to release pain that has been with you for a long time, and you might  feel so open that you just might have to go out and find some Salsa music and let go!

I will be offering hip openers, specifically Pigeon Pose, in all of my classes this month.  I offer classes on the Jungle Deck at Spa Uno on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings at 9:00 a.m.  I am available for private classes, either individual or groups.  I am also a licensed massage therapist, and offer both Deep-Tissue and traditional Thai Yoga Massage. Please call locally at 8-388-6960, or visit my web site at

A yoga practice can be a joyous part of your life, and I hope that I can play a part in opening that up to you.   Saludos!