Master One-Legged King Pigeon Pose 8 Yoga Poses to Help You Flip Your Grip
Does flipping your grip in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Dancer Pose (Natarajasana), Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), or any backbend pose seem impossible? Do you feel you are not bendy enough to practice One-Legged King Pigeon?
No worries! Many yoga practitioners have the same thoughts. But there are a few key yoga poses that will help prepare your body for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose. And the good news is that when you practice these preparatory poses regularly, the road to flipping your grip will be even faster.
One-Legged King Pigeon is a beautiful heart opening backbend that requires more than just a bendy spine to find the full variation . . .
Flipping your grip (and One-Legged King Pigeon in particular) requires an increased range of motion in several key parts of the body like the shoulders, spine, chest, and quadriceps. The yoga poses below will help prepare these key areas in the body so you can flip your grip in this advanced yoga pose and other backbend poses too.
Practice the following yoga poses to help you flip your grip and find the full expression of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose:
1. Supported Fish Pose (Supported Matsyasana)
Supported Fish Pose gently opens your thoracic spine, chest and shoulders, and also allows you to connect to your breath. As a yoga teacher, I love the many variations available for Supported Fish Pose to accommodate different levels of flexibility and what your body needs.
Place one yoga block vertically along your thoracic spine (upper spine) and slowly recline onto the block with your legs extended
Place the second yoga block under your head for support or allow the crown of your head to relax towards the mat (similar to traditional Fish Pose)
Option to keep the legs extended or bring the soles of the feet together with the knees wide for a Reclined Butterfly variation to slowly open the hips
Keep the arms by your side for a few breaths as you focus on opening your chest and spine
If you would like to add a shoulder opener, slowly extend your arms toward the ceiling
Stay here, or to add intensity to the shoulder and chest stretch, reach the arms overhead
Remain in your chosen variation of Fish Pose for 30 seconds
To exit, press your forearms into the mat and engage your core to come back to seated
If you would like to use a yoga wheel instead of yoga blocks to enhance your Supported Fish Pose, check out the video tutorial How to Use a Yoga Wheel.
2. Shoulder Warm-Up With Yoga Strap
To flip your grip for the full variation of One-Legged King Pigeon, your shoulders need to be warm and open to stay safe and find the full rotation in the shoulder joint. A simple yet effective daily shoulder opener will help prepare your shoulders for the intense external rotation needed to flip your grip.
How to practice this:
Find a long yoga strap (or belt or towel) and stand at the top of your mat
Grip the strap and extend your arms forward at about shoulder height with your hands wider than your shoulders
Slowly bring the strap overhead and behind your back to allow your shoulders to full rotate (if you cannot easily bring your hands behind your back, then make your grip wider on the strap)
Continue to warm up your shoulders by rotating the arms in front and behind you
To add a gentle stretch, shorten your grip on the strap and bring your arms overhead until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders
Combining Cat Pose and Cow Pose to gently warm the spine is a favorite among yogis. Use your breath to connect the poses and feel free to pause in either pose to allow a deeper stretch in the chest and back. Cat/Cow Pose also continues to warm-up the shoulders to help prepare you for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose.
How to practice Cat & Cow pose:
Begin in Table Top Pose
To practice Cow Pose: inhale and lift your chest and gaze toward the ceiling allowing your belly to relax down towards the mat. Cow Pose opens your front body
To practice Cat Pose: exhale and draw your navel toward your spine, and press your hands firmly into the yoga mat to round your spine. Cat Pose opens your back body
Continue connecting Cat Pose and Cow Pose with your breath for a few rounds
Again, feel free to pause in either pose for a few breaths to find a deeper stretch
4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra Pose will continue to warm up the spine and open the chest and shoulders. Cobra Pose will also activate your lower body, including your glutes, which are also needed when practicing backbends. When practicing Cobra Pose, focus on lifting the chest to find length in your spine to protect your low back.
How to practice Cobra pose:
Begin in prone position on your yoga mat with your hands under your shoulders and resting on the mat
Make sure your legs and feet are hip-distance apart and your toenails are pressing into the mat
On your inhale, press your hands firmly into the mat and engage your back body to lift your chest
Keep your knees and feet on the mat
Slowly straighten into your arms to add intensity and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to bring the bend into your thoracic spine
Hold and breath for 15-30 seconds and then slowly release
5. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Flipping your grip is not just about open shoulders and a bendy spine. To flip your grip, your hip flexors, psoas and quadriceps need to be open as well to get your back foot closer to the body. This will help your shoulders rotate more easily when you flip your grip. Low Lunge is a great yoga pose to invite a gentle stretch in your lower body.
Be sure the right knee is stacked directly over the right ankle
Release your left knee to the mat. Feel free to place a yoga blanket under your knee for added cushion if needed
Slowly shift your weight forward to invite the stretch in your left hip, psoas and quadricep
After a few breaths, extend your arms toward the ceiling and allow your hips to sink closer to the ground
Add a gentle backbend with arms extended or elbows bent (cactus arms) to continue to warm up the spine
Hold for a few breaths, and then bring your hands to the mat
Repeat on the opposite side
6. Lizard Pose With Quadricep Stretch
Lizard Pose provides a deeper stretch for our inner hips and the added quadricep stretch is the perfect bonus for our One-Legged King Pigeon Pose prep. The key to this pose is to connect to your breath and focus on releasing tension in your hips. The more you release the tension in your hips, the more your quadriceps will open as well.