One Legged King Pigeon - or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - is a pose that reminds me of how strong you must be to have an open heart.
In this posture, patiently opening up the hip flexors, shoulders, IT band and chest is critical to coming into the first phases of the posture. However, strengthening the spine to facilitate the front body opening while still supporting the spinal column is where full expression is found.
To begin, warm the body with 4-6 full sun salutations both A & B. Spend a few breaths in both up and down dog. Incorporate core work, focusing on the traverse and low abdominals, and gentle your spine into some easy back-bends like modified anuvittasana with goal-post arms (standing back-bend) and bhujangasana (low cobra). Malasana, garland pose, is another great prep for the hips - bring your feet out wide, then bend into your hips like you're sitting like a frog; keep the feet fully planted on the floor.
When your body is warm, begin in downward facing dog, sweep the right leg straight back, with hips squared (3-legged down dog). Then, guide the right knee to the right wrist and lay the right shin across the mat. Balancing weight between both hips, guide the pelvis to the floor and extend the left leg straight back. To find flexibility in the IT band, stay upright in this position and work towards squaring your right shin to the front of the mat. This may mean that your right hip will lift off the floor to remain balanced in the hips. That's ok; even your weight through your palms, and use a block or rolled towel as a prop to support the right hip.
When your IT band feels open and you are ready to move on, begin in the same down dog position. This time when bringing the knee forward to the wrist, keep the foot tucked into the groin, creating an acute angle in the right leg (Yogi Tip: try a pointed toe to protect the knee joint in acute angles, and a flexed toe in right angles.)
From a narrow angle right leg position, and bend the left leg at the knee and support your body between both hips and your left hand for balance. Extend up with your heart and begin to bend back, guiding your right hand to the left foot. It may not touch. You can use a strap around your left foot to encourage the connection. When you can comfortably bring the foot towards the foreheard, begin to ease the left hand away from the floor and up to the foot. In full expression, both hands have grasped the foot and there is a connection between the sole of the foot and the crown of the head.
Words of caution: if at any and point a twingy, painful feeling enters your spine, knees or hips, back off. This is a posture that increases flexibility in the cervical spine. Often students, especially women, come into it too quickly, relying on the flexibility of their hips and low spine. However, without properly strengthening the upper back and your core, you may be leaving your low spine vulnerable to injury.
Be strong. Open your heart!
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