Eka pada rajakapotasana, one legged king pigeon pose, (the variation with the back leg straight and the torso folded forward) is many peoples favourite asana – while Mermaid is the preferred pose for Instagram!
Byron Yoga bucks the trend!: Eka pada rajakapotasana on the beach and Mermaid in the studio!
They are both lovely hip openers and the different variations can add in quad and triceps stretches and a gentle to medium backbend. The main difference between Eka pada rajakapotasana and Mermaid is that with Mermaid you shift the body to face sideways and you open the hips like scissors; while for one legged pigeon you are more centred and facing forward. The other distinction is that Mermaid photos are habitually performed on the beach at the waters edge!
These are powerful poses, not suitable for a beginner without a teacher and not for those with a knee injury. Anyone with shoulder or back issues should not do the arm variations. If you have very tight hips you may like to use a prop under the hip of the bent leg.
When done correctly, these asanas can serve to gently open tight hips, lengthen the quads and triceps, open the shoulders and potentially alleviate sciatica pain. They also work on deep levels to release long held emotions and negative energies in the body such as anger, fear and hurt. Holding the pose for a while can trigger emotional release, so breath deeply and ‘let it go’!
Start in Adho mukha svanasana, Down dog, then bend your right knee bringing it behind the right wrist and placing the right foot behind the left wrist. The closer the right foot is to your torso the gentler it is on the hip. Ensure the left leg is pointed straight back on the mat.
Take your awareness to your hips. For Eka pada rajakapotasana align them evenly and facing forward, for Mermaid let them open to the side (this is like your Warrior 1 Vs Warrior 2 hip position).
Resting the right hand on the right thigh, bend the left leg, reach back with the left hand to take hold of the foot.
From here, in either pose you can stay with the simple quad stretch, drawing the foot in towards your sit bones; or you can slide the foot into the crease of the elbow, then raise the right arm up and bend at the elbow clasping the hands for the triceps stretch, this would be the full Mermaid pose.
The full Eka pada rajakapotasana variation takes it one step further – keep your torso facing forward and as you hold the left foot with the left hand, reach up and back with the right hand so that both hands are holding the left foot, elbows pointing upwards. Raise the chin, stretch the front of the neck and take the back bend.
Take 5 to 10 breaths (and, if in Mermaid on the beach – take a photo!).