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Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana, Pidgeon backbend posture, by Christophe Mouze and Ciara Cullen

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Playingwith Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana

EkaPada Raja Kapotasana (EPRK) is a strong asymetrical backbending posturewhich requires good flexibility in the lower back, shoulders and hips.For this reason, it is wise to practice a few preliminary postures priorto performing it, either as a warm up within thesame session, or as part of a training programmebuilding up to the full posture over several weeks.

Preparation

One of the best posture to warm upthe lower back prior to a stronger back bend practice is Bujangasana(the cobra posture), which can be done as part of the classic SuryaNamaskar sequence, or on it own. The action of the hips and legs inthis posture is virtually the same as on the back leg in EPRK making ita particularly suitable warm up for it.
Bujangasana, the cobra posture
Bujangasana, the cobra.

Another posture which is most useful to prepare for EPRK isArdha Hanumanasana, demonstrated below. The hip work is the same as for EPRK but there’s nopresure on the shoulders and the pressure on the lower back is greatlyreduced, so one can take time to soften the hips into it.
Preliminary position for Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana,preliminary posture

If the hips are very stiff, it canbe helpful to prop up the buttock on the foward leg side with a blockor a blanket, as demonstrated below. People who need this type ofsupport should not attempt the full posture, but work on thepreliminary posture until they areconfortable in it without support.
Using prop
Using a block or a blanket for people with stiff hips

Oncethe preliminaray postures above are comfortable, the hips and lower backare ready for the posture, and one can start workingthe shoulders. A useful posture for this is Kapotasana, inwhich the shoulder work is very similar to EPRK but which, being asymetrical and a somewhat milder backbend, is easier to approach.
One of the difficulties is getting the shoulder and arm intoposition (there’s a knack to it). This can be made much easier by usinga belt, as demonstrated below.
Hand position
Detail of hand position
Using a  belt
Using a belt to get the shoulder and arm into position

Final Pose Once the postures above are mastered (which can be judged by the quality of thebreathing), one can tackle the full posture.This is how to get into it:
From Ado Muka Svanasana (downward facing dog), transfer the weight ontothe left foot and move the right foot forward behind the left hand. Letthe right knee come down onto the floor behind the right hand andsoften the hips downwards. Lift the chest and move the shoulders back.
Then bend the right knee and catch the foot with the right hand, withthe fingers on top of the foot and the thumb nearer to the heel a,ndrotate the elbow outwards then upwards to bring the arm and shoulderinto position (this is where the knack is). Get a good grip on theright foot, secure your balance, and then reach back with your lefthand also, holding the foot with both hands. Keep lifting the chest.TIlt the head back and bring the right foot forward to touch the head.
Enjoy, you’re now in the full posutre.
Classic  Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana, final pose

Variations

Once you have mastered the basicposture,  EPRK offers many opportunities for creative asanapractice. Some possibilities are demonstrated below. In “Light onyoga”, BKS Iyengar  demonstrates a number of variations.
Eka Pada Baddha Raja Kapotasana
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana, bound variation
With legs in Hanumanasana
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana with legs in Hanumanasana
Twist in Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana
Twist in Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana

Counter poses

A strong backebending posture like EPRK should be followed by a strongforward bend as a counter pose. Janu Sirsasana is perfectly suitable,asboth postures are asymetrical, but any of the leg behind the headpostures, or even kurmasana, could also be used.

Janusirsasana
Janu Sirsasana, the classic counterpose for EPRK

Moving on

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana is an excellent preparation  forNatarajasana which adds to the shoulder and lower back work the extra difficulty of balancing on one leg :).
Natarajasana, the dancer posture Ciara in Natarajasana

Christophe Mouze and Ciara Cullen