Category Archives: Backbends

Posture Clinic: How to do Kapotasana Pose

The inspiration for this week’s postural sequence comes from Alicia Orr and Alessandra Miele who serve as co-founders and directors of the beautiful North End Yoga studio in Boston Ma.   Earlier on today after giving me a tour of their space, we  started talking shop and collectively recognized  how challenging it is to actually grab the toes once you’ve managed to drop back into the full form of kapotasana posture.  Since I’m sure that many of you struggle with this same challenge, I’ve put together an accelerated sequence that should help you make some progress on this amazing variation.

I’ve always found that the best way to approach a posture like this is is to practice logically, systematically and with consistency.  Supporting this theory, Simon Borg Olivier notes that, “If you want to develop a yoga practice that will support a functional activity, you must chose special yoga postures that most resemble the activity of your preference” (Borg-Olivier,350).  In this context, that means that if we are to define the “functional activity” as the practice of kapotasana,  any systematic approach that we undertake must utilize stretches that approximate the range of motion requirements  necessary  to accomplish the full expression of kapotasana itself.

By this reasoning, since the full expression of kapotasana requires a high degree of openness in the hip flexors, rectus abodminus, and pectoral muscles, any sequence that incorporates poses that address tightness or weakness in these areas will be very helpful if  we wish to eventually experience deeper expressions of the full posture.  Then, according to Olivier since “the physical effort or force you exert upon a tissue will stimulate or provoke a change in that tissue which will be directed by your effort… [you will] achieve the results you are working towards.” (Borg-Olivier, 350).

The following sequence of postures is designed to help you systematically develop range of motion gains in kapotasana through a combination of lunging/quadricep opening postures, back strengthening exercises and postural variations such as eka pada raja kapotasana, (king pigeon pose) which very closely resemble the same range of motion requirements that are found in the final form of kapotasana.  Twists are included in the middle in order to give the body time to rest between backbending sets.

To practice this sequence, work from left to right downward through the chart.  For optimal effect, practice this sequence on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next three weeks.  


How to do the King Pigeon Pose

King pigeon pose (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana) is one of my favorite backbends.  There’s nothing quite as surreal as the feeling of your toes tickling the top of your head as you draw your foot to the crown!  The best part though is the great degree of openness that the pose creates across the entire front  of the body.  If you’ve been hunching over a desk all day, this posture will have you standing tall again in no time flat!

While achieving this posture will take some time and patience, you will find that you will be more likely to have success if you follow a logical and sequential approach.   Any preparations that you take should include strengthening for the back as well as stretches for the the hip-flexors, quadriceps, thoracic spine and shoulders.

Before you try this pose, make sure that you are appropriately warmed up.  Do some some sun-salutations or run a few laps around the block until you start to get a little sweaty.  Once you’re warmed up, focus on holding each pose in the following sequence for twenty full breaths each (except the back strengtheners – 10 breaths in each of those will do just fine).

If you are unable to practice the full expression of the pose, use a strap to bind the foot.

Use these alignment tips while practicing:

Sacral NutationTucking your tail strongly under as you do this pose prevents your pelvis from tipping into correct backbend positioning and can lead to lower back pain.  Instead of tucking the tail, allow the vertebrate behind your belt buckle to press passively forward toward the front of your body as you bend.  This will very gently tip the top of the pelvis forward and even help to increase your range of motion.

Sternum Line – Once you’ve gotten into the full posture, imagine that your breastbone were like a slide-ruler.  Slide it upward and over the top of the heart to increase the opening in the thoracic spine.

Follow the short sequence in the slide-show below to work up to the king pigeon pose:

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The PVYU king pigeon challenge:    Snap a picture of you doing the king pigeon pose by April 15th and send it over.  My highly objective panel of yoga judges and I will choose the top photo and the winner will receive a Pranavayu accelerated practice designed by me.   Take note:  Cool environments and awesome photo angles will be taken into consideration!

Happy practice!