Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Prep
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
In the midst of the holiday season, one of the best ways you can treat yourself is by choosing a practice or a series of poses that ground you. The busier we get, the less grounded and present we naturally are. The faster paced a yoga class, the more backbending we do, and the faster we breathe all can exacerbate a sense of unsteadiness and add to the stress of a full calendar of holidays outings and appointments. Its time to treat your central nervous system by practicing in a way that will help balance the flux of holiday busyness.
First, a little background on you parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Your PNS is the part of your nervous system that compliments the sympathetic nervous system SNS (fight or flight mode). When the two don’t compliment each other and the SNS is overused, we un almost exclusively on our adrenaline, which can be exhausted very quickly. When we run on the fuel of our fight or flight senses, we will often experience mental and physical fatigue even if we haven’t exercised much or have received adequate sleep. When activating the PNS, this is like recharging your physical and mental batteries. Certain poses are prime for tapping into your PNS or or your SNS.
There are also certain actions in the body that can help stimulate your PNS more. One of the most effective is rooting the top of your thigh bones into the back plane of the body (this creates a deeper anterior tilt of the pelvis, creates space in the groins, and helps to release hip flexor tension). This action on not only tremendously in opening hamstrings and releasing low back tension, but also creates a very grounding energy in the body by pulling the energy down from the head and into the seat of the pelvis.
Another great action for cultivating a sense of grounding is focusing the breathe into the back lower part of your rib cage. Some teachers call this “breathing into your kidneys.” This helps relieve the adrenal glands that sit on top of your kidneys. It is the adrenal glands that are often depleted when the SNS goes into overdrive.
Lastly, most poses that require strong and steady leg work help to naturally facilitate more downward flowing, or grounding, energy. Forward bends, hip openers, and standing poses are excellent for this.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 1 Prep is a quick and easy way for grounding your central nervous sytem. The most literal English translation is One Leg King Pigeon 1 Pose Prep. I’m using the word “Prep” here because Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in its truest form is a deep backbend where one reaches back and grabs the back foot with both hands in this position. Some teachers have inaccurately started calling the backbended version Kapotasana- which is a very different pose. The number “1” comes from the fact that there are 4 variations of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in yoga. Each successive varation has the front leg in a different position.
Now for the pose… From downdog bring your right knee behind your right wrist with the shin across the mat at an angle. The more parallel the shin is to the front of your mat, the more intense the stretch. For a completely parallel shin, this may take years to accomplish. Your right knee will be wider to the right than your right hip. Keep your pelvis lifted so that your right sits bone and pelvic floor are lifted off the ground. DO NOT put a block or blanket underneath your right hip in this pose unless you have a specific knee injury that requires this and have worked with a senior teacher that can help you decide. This form of pigeon should be reserved for just a few.
Flex your right toes to tone the outer right shin. This helps stabilize the knee and broadens your femur bone (which releases the hip flexors and stretches the outer hips deeply). Staying more upright in this pose will stretch the back leg more and folding forward will stretch the front outer hip more.
Stay up to a minute on each side and enjoy a calmer mood, freer low back, and more supple legs!
Sean Haleen’s classes are noted for their humor and depth. Focusing on alignment, students wishing to learn about their bodies and the different concepts of yoga philosophy in detail will enjoy his public classes. Click here to see his weekly class schedule. Join Sean on New Year’s Day for his workshop Start Your Year off Right!