Eka pada rajakapotasana (Eh-kah PAH-dah rah-JAH-cop-oh-TAHS-anna), also known as the pigeon or one-legged pigeon pose, is a backbend that can relieve nerve tension and chronic pain while increasing circulation and controlling desires. Whichever version of pigeon you may choose to try, remember to maintain some awareness on your breathing.
From your hands and knees, bring your right knee forward to the floor just behind your right hand.
Place your right foot toward the left side of your mat, shin on the mat, with your knee at an angle that creates a stretch in the hip without pain in the knee. If your shin is parallel to the top of the mat, flex your foot back to stabilize the joints.
Walk your left knee behind you until your leg is fully extended. Draw your inner thighs towards each other, slightly lifting your pelvis higher.
Find the middle point where equal weight is between your left and right sides, and your pelvis is squared to the front of your mat.
If the right hip is off the ground, use a folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under your right hip for support, keeping the hips square and level.
Uncurl your left toes, looking back to see that your ankle is in line with your shin, and your leg is running in a straight line behind you.
On an inhale, send your tailbone down towards the earth and the crown of your head up towards the sky.
Exhale and slowly walk your hands forward in front of you, placing elbows on the floor or arms extended in front of you with torso on the floor.
Breathe slowly for at least 5 deep breaths.
Slowly walk your hands back up towards your body, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Send the head of the arm bones back, allowing your upper chest to lift slightly so that the collarbones are broad.
Inhale to send your tailbone down and your crown up, walking your hands closer and closer to the body on an exhale so that the torso is moving towards an upright posture. Breathe here for 5 breaths or continue with the variation pose below.
Variation A – If you are able to painlessly and evenly stay in this posture while removing your right hand from the earth, you may reach your right arm behind you with the palm up. Draw your lower belly in to stabilize your spine, inner thighs moving towards each other. Bend your right knee and grasp the flexed foot with your hand. You may stay here and breathe or progress to the next variation.
Variation B – Point your foot and slowly shift your hand to the toes of the foot by outwardly rotating your arm deeper, slowly lifting the elbow forward, upwards, and eventually backwards so that the palm is facing down. Press your left support hand into the floor to lengthen your waistline, keeping even weight in the left and right sides of the body. Breathe here or progress to the next variation.
Variation C – If you are able to maintain your balance and stability draw the lower belly in, move your inner thighs towards each other, lift your left arm up and back, grasping your foot with both hands. Send the head of the arm bone back into the socket, keep the action of your lower belly and legs, and breathe.
Slowly, release your foot, place both palms on the floor and step back to adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog).
Return to your hands and knees and repeat on the other side.
At first many students who learn this pose aren't able to easily grasp the back foot directly with their hands. Take a strap with a buckle. Slip a small loop over the back foot—let's say the left foot is extended back—and tighten the strap around the ball of the foot. Make sure the buckle is against the sole of the foot. Perform the leg position, and lay the strap on the floor along side the left leg. Bend the left knee and grasp the strap with the left hand. Swing that arm up and over your head, then reach back with the right hand. Hold the strap in both hands, and carefully walk your hands down the strap toward the foot.