Historically throughout my years of oscillating practice, the pleasure of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana- or One-Legged King Pigeon OR just plain ol’ Half Pigeon- has, quite frankly, eluded me. In fact, more often than not, when given the opportunity to avoid it, I’ve been more than happy to do so.
I tend to be tight, tight, tight through the hips. Hamstrings? No problem… there’s nothing like the sweet surrender into a deep and delicious forward bend. Shoulders? Mmmmm… Eagle me, baby! Hips? Well… another story. At a Boot Camp a few years back part of the evening practice required we remain in Frog Pose for a seemingly endless amount of time. By the end of the week I had discovered any number of ways to support myself in the posture: blankets, blocks, complete and utter denial… let’s say, I really came to understand “going to my happy place.”
But, I digress… be these hips as they may, lately, and perhaps it’s a function of now being in an actual class where I am bound, gagged and manhandled more consistently encouraged into Pigeon, I’ve found a little more joy in this wonderful hip-opener.
OK… perhaps ‘joy’ is overstating it a tad, but I am definitely better able to embrace the discomfort a little more, breathe into the tension of the tendon and muscle, and allow some much needed open-ness through this tight area of the hips and groin. Honestly, after squeezing out three over-sized babies I wouldn’t have thought it ever to be an issue.
I’m fortunate not to be prone to knee problems and can really focus on deepening the posture without fear of springing any precious tissue/tendons/ligaments. As any experienced yogi will tell you, this pose can be a doozy for anyone with knee troubles and considerable consciousness must be given as to how it’s approached.
My favourite route to Half-Pigeon is from an exuberant Downward Dog… extending the leg high, enthusiastic and light, and then with energy and control taking the foot all the way forward as though to lunge, but taking the foot- with energy and control- to the inside of the hand of the opposite side. Gently, slowly, lower the knee to the floor, towards the outside of the mat, ever-conscious of that knee, of course. It’s a lovely feeling of strength, flexibility and control.
The benefits to opening the hips are many, such as stretching the thighs, groins and psoas, abdomen, chest, as well as the shoulders and neck. It stimulates the abdominal organs, while providing a distinct opening of pelvis, hips, shoulders and chest. In doing so there’s a renewed feeling of suppleness through the remainder of your practice as well as your day. Any tightness is seemingly unwound allowing for a greater feeling of lightness and flexibility, providing a better defense against injury and strains in sport and everyday life. Hips are a big deal!
Here’s a quick supplement to offer an easy to follow introduction to the posture:
For further information on the posture, as always, I defer to a most reliable higher power….