Yoga Anatomy: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the King Pigeon Pose

King Pigeon pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is an intense and challenging yoga pose, often seen as highly intimidating by beginners. But with the help of preparatory exercises and proper guidance from experienced professionals, it can be mastered easily. This pose engages almost all the muscles in the body while opening a variety of joints and areas within the body. It truly lives up to its name as one of yoga’s super poses!

Wondering how to perform Eka Pada Rajakapotasana? This article gives you a step-by-step guide for mastering the King Pigeon Pose—from what muscles to activate to what might be preventing you from achieving this, complex exercise. Learn everything you need to understand and succeed in the King Pigeon Pose.

These Muscles are Activated When Doing the King Pigeon Yoga Pose

King Pigeon Pose: Extensor of the Shoulders

The extensor muscles of the shoulder, which are responsible for moving the arm from overhead to down, can all be worked on in the king pigeon pose. Utilizing a system such as EasyFlexibility allows users to target each individual muscle until it is completely stretched and properly lengthened, thus enabling them to more comfortably perform this pose.

To do Eka Pada Rajakapotasana successfully, it is important to make sure that your shoulder has enough flexibility. This includes having enough mobility in the pectoralis major sternal part and the long head of the triceps, as well as the two short heads of your triceps if you plan on bending your elbow a lot.

King Pigeon Pose: Elbow Extensors

In order to practice King Pigeon Pose, you need to have flexibility in the teres major, posterior deltoid and latissimus dorsi muscles around the elbow joint. Once these areas are sufficiently flexible, you can work on deepening your King Pigeon Pose and reaping all of its wonderful benefits!

Flexibility in the scapula, or shoulder blade, muscles is essential for raising your arm above your head. Without it, you may lack the range of motion needed to reach overhead.

King Pigeon Pose: Scapula Muscles

The scapula, also known as the shoulder blade, is an important element in shoulder and arm movement. Its muscles must remain flexible to provide a full range of motion in the shoulder and arms. Should you experience restricted overhead movement, it may be due to tightness in one or more of the following scapula muscles: Pectoralis minor and Rhomboid major.

For best results, it’s important to stretch each muscle individually rather than trying to stretch them all at once. This can lead to more efficient flexibility gains. For example, if you want to bring your arm up and behind your head, it pays to stretch the muscles around the scapula and shoulder joint separately before trying to do an overall stretch of all these muscles at once.

King Pigeon Pose: Front Leg Medial Rotators

To get into King Pigeon Pose with a balanced front leg, the medial rotators of it must be stretched. These are key muscles including the Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus and Piriformis which should be targeted for greater flexibility in order to comfortably rotate the leg outwards with an even pressure on the floor.

Tightness in the adductors, particularly the Adductor Magnus, is one of the primary culprits in limiting medial (or inward) rotation—movement that’s crucial for completing many everyday tasks and sports-related activities. It’s important to maintain flexibility in other medial rotators such as the Tensor Fasciae Latae—which stretches when the leg is extended or behind you and doesn’t come into play when the leg is in front of you. It’s also noteworthy that people with tight muscles on the outside of the front leg may attempt to move their leg outward, while those with tightened inner thigh muscles might try to move their leg more inward during this pose.

King Pigeon Pose: Back Leg

King Pigeon Pose: Hip Flexors of the Back Leg

The King Pigeon Pose is a yoga asana that involves extending the back leg. To accomplish this movement, one must stretch and activate six hip flexor muscles: the pectineus, tensor fasciae latae, rectos femoris, sartorius, soleus, and iliacus. Additionally, tightness in any of the adductors can limit a person’s ability to extend their hip at their knee joint. With proper stretching and practice, one can gain full range of motion in their lower body while performing the King Pigeon Pose.

King Pigeon Pose: Back Leg Adductors

The four main muscles of the adductor group are Adductor Magnus, Brevis, and Longus, as well as Gracilis. The Adductor Magnus is the biggest and most powerful muscle of this group and is located on the inner aspect of the thigh nearest to the groin area. Adductor Brevis and Longus run alongside it on either side and work in concert with it. The Gracilis is a smaller muscle found towards the front of the inner thigh. All four muscles work together to pull the legs inwards towards each other; from a stretching position as felt when standing with feet apart or from a shuffling motion as seen during dancing.

King Pigeon Pose: Back Leg Quadriceps

The quadriceps are a large four-headed muscle located in the anterior portion of the thigh, that is responsible for knee extension and hip flexion. It is composed of three short heads: the Vastus Medialis, Vastus Lateralis, and Vastus Intermedius. These muscles all work together to allow the knee to extend and hip to flex.

After exploring the muscles and joints used in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, our journey to understanding this asana is not complete until we learn all its components.

When people lack flexibility in areas such as their shoulders and hips, they often compensate for it by hyperextending their spine to bring the body back into an upright position. To avoid this, a good level of flexibility is required in other muscles such as Rectus Abdominis and the Obliques. In some cases, individuals may have Psoas Minor, which also requires a degree of flexibility to prevent compensation.

Struggling to nail the perfect King Pigeon Pose? Zaichik Stretching Techniques, or ZST’s are here to help! By isolating and stretching each of the targeted muscles one by one, you can quickly increase your flexibility. First off, do a few tests to identify which areas of your body are preventing you from executing the Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. Once you establish this, start using ZST’s that specifically target and stretch those muscles, so you can start mastering the King Pigeon Pose in no time!

King Pigeon Pose: Flexibility Tests

Evaluate your flexibility in order to perform the King Pigeon Pose by performing the following tests.

Have you ever wondered how flexible your body is? This requires coordination between multiple muscles and joints – so use the simple tests below to find where any weak areas are located. Once you have identified the problem areas, you can use Zaichik Stretching Techniques to improve your flexibility in those specific areas. So why wait? Put your body to the test and start improving now!

King Pigeon Pose: Shoulder Flexibility Test

Want to know how flexible your shoulders are? Perform this simple test: stand with your back against a wall. Make sure not to arch your lower back and keep it pressed against the wall, then raise straight arms above your head. Your goal is to keep a flat back so that there is no curve demonstrated in the picture. If you feel like your entire back is touching the wall, reach behind you and try touching the wall with your wrists – this will give you an indication of your shoulder flexibility.

If you experience arching of your lower back when your arms are up against the wall, this could be an indicator that your shoulder flexibility is lacking. Try our Overhead Shoulder Flexibility program to help increase shoulder range of motion and reduce compensatory patterns.

Are you able to touch the back of your wrists with straight arms to the wall?

Are you able to reach your arm up and back behind your head? Having shoulder flexibility is important for several movements, and with the right training program, you can improve your flexibility even more. Our Overhead Shoulder Flexibility program will expand your shoulder range of motion and help you reach more challenging poses.

Do you find that your shoulders are tight and difficult to move? If so, our Overhead Shoulder Flexibility program is perfect for increasing the range of motion in your shoulders. Our exercises will help loosen those tight muscles and improve shoulder flexibility quickly!

King Pigeon Pose: Front Leg Flexibility Test

To ensure a successful pose, let’s make sure your front leg has adequate flexibility.

To do this test:

  • Lie down on your back
  • Keep both legs straight
  • Lift one leg up
  • Flex the hip to ninety (90) degrees
  • Flex the knee to 90 degrees
  • Rotate the leg out

Is your shin parallel to your body when you rotate your leg out?

Do you have the flexibility to bring your thigh close to your torso in an externally rotated position? This action will make it much easier to perform and maintain King Pigeon Pose. If not, then focus on Lotus Pose, which helps increase the flexion of the hip in the externally rotated pose.

Are you able to move your legs with an internal rotation and keep them over your body? If not, then you do not have enough flexibility for the pigeon pose. The Lotus Program and Glutes & Iliotibial Band program are the perfect solutions to increasing your flexibility, enabling you to bring your knee up to at least your stomach or even higher, across your chest.

King Pigeon Pose: Spine Flexibility Test

Let’s see if your spine is capable of achieving a full extension. A deep King Pigeon pose requires flexible hip flexors and the ability for the back leg to extend without straining the lower back muscles. This is usually a difficult task for most people.

To test your spine’s flexibility, start by lying on the floor with your hands beneath your shoulders. Press up and see if you can reach the cobra pose where your chest is pointing forward vertically. Make sure that your iliac bones (the bones near the belly button) remain in contact with the floor while lifting, as this shows that you have enough flexibility in your spine for King Pigeon Pose.

Can you do this position?

If  you can, then you have the minimum flexibility required to do the King Pigeon Pose.

If your range of motion prevents you from doing the cobra pose with your chest and hips on the ground, (the minimum flexibility required to be able to do  the King Pigeon Pose) then you may benefit from our Back Extension (Back Bending) Program.

King Pigeon Pose: Hip Extension of the leg

When it comes to the fourth component of King Pigeon Pose, which is hip extension, it’s unlikely that you have enough flexibility in your hip flexors and adductors to get a good leg extension. This is not something that needs to be tested as the muscles are generally very rigid. For those who don’t have this flexibility they would need to do a hip flexors program. On the other hand, some may have enough flexibility due to the flexiblity in their spine, front leg and shoulders, even if their hip flexors are tight. In either case, having adequate hip flexibility is essential for mastering this pose.

If you know which muscle groups need more flexibility, EasyFlexibility provides programs specifically tailored to improve this flexibility and range of motion. There are specialized programs for the four areas:

If, however, you would still rather do the yoga poses to prepare for the King Pigeon Pose further down below you will find a list of Yoga poses that you can do.

Zaichik Stretching Techniques – Unique Flexibility Exercises to help you with your problem areas so that you can master the King Pigeon Pose

~Stability~ ZST (Psoas)

The following Zaichik Stretching Technique (ZST) is taken from the EasyFlexibility Hip Flexors Program. This ZST works on the famous Psoas muscle.

To perform ~Stability~ ZST:

Starting Position

  • Get into a lunge position
  • Right leg in front
  • Bring the left arm up and flex laterally to the right
  • Place the right hand on the floor or on a prop

Leverage 1

  • Move the hips to the right

Target 1

  • As the hips are coming back to the left move the pelvis forward and down.

Leverage 2

  • Move the hips to the right

Target 2

  • As the hips are coming back to the left move the pelvis forward and down.

Leverage 3

  • Move the hips to the right

Target 3

  • As the hips are coming back to the left move the pelvis forward and down.

~Discernment~ ZST (Flexors of the Core)

The following Zaichik Stretching Technique (ZST) is taken from the EasyFlexibility Back Bending Beginner Program. This ZST works on flexors of the core.

To perform ~Discernment~ ZST:

Starting position:

  • Lie down flat on your stomach
  • Place your hands under your shoulders
  • Lift the torso up by pressing into the floor

Leverage 1

  • Contract the spinal extensors and the flexors of the hip if necessary
  • Hyperextend the lower back by lifting the hips off the floor

Target 1

As the hips are coming back down to the starting position press up a little bit higher.

Leverage 2

  • Contract the spinal extensors and the flexors of the hip if necessary
  • Hyperextend the lower back by lifting the hips off the floor

Target 2

As the hips are coming back down to the starting position press up a little bit higher.

Leverage 3

  • Contract the spinal extensors and the flexors of the hip if necessary
  • Hyperextend the lower back by lifting the hips off the floor

Target 3

As the hips are coming back down to the starting position press up a little bit higher.

Please note that what we’ve shared with you is only 2 ZST’s from the EasyFlexibility system of over 100 programs. To get full benefit for your King Pigeon Pose we recommend various programs to help you so that you can target areas that are restricting you from doing a full King Pigeon Pose. To learn more about our programs please click here.

King Pigeon Pose: Preparatory Yoga Poses

Building up to King Pigeon Pose in a traditional yoga practice typically requires practicing specific poses. This form of training is known to take longer compared to the Zaichik Stretching Techniques. To explore the popular postures customarily used, let’s examine some of these poses employed in a classic yoga sequence.

Supported Fish Pose

To practice the Supported Fish Pose (Supported Matsyasana), start by sitting comfortably, with your back in front of a block or blanket stack. Place your pelvis 8-10 inches in front of the block, then slowly lean back and rest your ribs against the edge. Open your chest and torso but keep your arms at your sides. Stay in this pose for at least 30 seconds to get its full benefits. To further stretch out your shoulders, extend your arms up towards the ceiling.

Cat/Cow Pose (Marjariasana)

Cat Cow Pose is a great warm-up exercise that combines both stretching and strengthening. It works to tone abdominal muscles, open the spine, and strengthen arm, wrist, and shoulder muscles for poses like King Pigeon. To perform this sequence, begin in Cow Pose by inhaling and dropping your abdomen while lifting your chest and chin towards the ceiling. Pull your shoulders blades away from your ears and draw your stomach towards the spine while arching your back. Let go of the crown of your head to help keep a smooth flow through the spine. Do this 5-10 times for 30 seconds or longer for an extra stretch in the shoulders.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

The Cobra Pose, or Bhujangasana, is a dynamic yoga pose that will help to make your spine stronger, firm up the muscles of your buttocks, and open your heart. In addition, this asana can be used to combat tiredness and provide relief from lower back pain. To enter the pose, start on your stomach with the palms flat on the ground beneath your shoulders. Curve your elbows inwards while you keep them close to your body and look downwards while making sure to keep a natural position of the neck. On inhalation, lift up the chest off the floor by angling back through the shoulders and ensure that the lower rib cage stays in contact with the mat.

Low Lunge

To do a lunge, setup by standing with your feet together. Then place your left foot forward and shift your hips to be aligned in the same direction. Now, bend your right knee so that it is directly over you left heel. Lower it to the ground while maintaining firmness on your left knee. As you inhale, bring your arms up to shoulder level and press them outward parallel to the floor in order to further deepen the stretch you feel in your right thigh and groin area. Low Lunge is a fantastic pose for improving flexibility of the hips, hamstrings and quads as well as strengthening knee joints – plus it even helps with concentration if practiced regularly!

Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

Utthan Pristhasana, also known as Lizard Pose, is a yoga posture that strengthens the inner thighs while stretching and lengthening the hamstrings. To get into the pose, begin from a Downward-Facing Dog position with your feet hip-width apart. Step your right foot forward so that you are in a low lunge position, then lower your left knee to the floor and press into your hips while keeping your arms straight. Slowly lower onto your forearms while making sure to keep your spine and head in alignment. To deepen the stretch, press up on the ball of your left foot while keeping it straight. Hold this pose for a few seconds before switching sides and repeating the practice.

Half Pigeon Pose (Ardha Kapotasana)

Half Pigeon Pose, or Ardha Kapotasana, is a deep hip-opening stretch that targets the hips, groin, and hip flexors. To perform this pose, start on your back in resting position. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle so that your foot is close to your groin area while keeping your hips parallel and squared with the ground. Straighten your back leg and press your toes firmly into the mat. Lengthen through the ribs and open up the chest as your fingers press into the earth by either side of you. Make sure to keep looking forward for best results!

Mermaid Pose

Mermaid Pose is a great way to build strength for the King Pigeon Pose. This pose requires you to engage your core, pelvic floor and lower back muscles while adding balance and tone to your chest and shoulders. To get into Mermaid Pose, start with the Pigeon Pose first – line up your hips and shoulders with the mat, pressing down on your palms. Then take your left knee in close, extending the arm forward then reaching over to grab hold of your left foot. Keep breathing deeply as you hold the position for few moments – this helps deepen the stretch.

Paul Zaichik is an Exercise Science Expert, author of multitude of books, and the creator of Zaichik Stretching Technique (formely known as Kinesiological Stretching Technique). His speciality is flexibility training as well as body weight conditioning. His innovative method is designed to have maximum carry over into specific athletic techniques. Paul is the author of books and DVD’s on the topic of flexibility, martial arts and bodyweight training. Over the years, Paul Zaichik has worked with a variety of individuals including athletes, entertainers, and military personnel. His ElasticSteel Method of Athletic Conditioning programs, EasyFlexibility Programs and Zaichik Stretching Techniques are used world wide by both professional and amateurs with great success.

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