Eka Pada Galavasana, or Flying Pigeon Pose is an extremely complex posture that is not only challenging and awe-inspiring, but also provides a plethora of benefits to your body and mind.
Strengthening multiple muscle groups while simultaneously stretching others, this magical posture also helps you to overcome fears, build confidence and stimulate deep breathing.
This pose is certainly no easy feat; so there are plenty of poses to work on to prepare you for Flying Pigeon. The following are ten essential postures to stretch and strengthen specifically targeted muscles to be able to fly in Eka Pada Galavasana.
1. Supta Kapotasana (Reclining Thread-the-Needle)
This reclining pigeon variation opens the outer hips as a great warm up for the deep hip opening required in Flying Pigeon Pose. Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat against the floor about hip-distance apart.
Inhale to lift your right foot off the floor and flex into your ankle. Bend your right knee and externally rotate your hip joint so you can cross your right ankle over your left knee, creating a figure-4 shape with your legs. Lift your left foot off the floor and draw your shin parallel to your mat and hold a strap or interlace your fingers behind your left thigh.
Press your lower back and sacrum down onto the floor and draw your knees toward your chest while maintaining contact with your tailbone against the mat. Hold for a few long, deep breaths before switching legs.
2. Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
Another great posture to warm-up and open the outer hips, Cow Face Pose begins to create an even deeper opening. Start seated with your legs extended forward in front of you.
You can elevate your hips onto a block or cushion to make this posture more accessible. Cross your right leg over your left and then bend into your right knee drawing your right heel toward your left hip. You can also bend into your left knee and draw your left heel toward your right hip, trying to stack your knees on top of each other as much as possible.
Lengthen into your spine and either stay sitting up tall or slowly begin to hinge from your hips as you fold forward over your legs creating an even deeper stretch. Hold for a few deep breaths before switching the cross of your legs.
3. Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana Modified (Pigeon Prep Pose)
This standard pigeon variation works the same external rotation and outer hip opening of your hip joint as its Flying Pigeon counterpart.
In this pose, try to square your hips forward as much as possible, isometrically drawing your knees toward each other to help this action. Lengthen your spine and you can either stay seated up tall or hinged forward over your front leg, all the while maintaining squared and level hips.
Breathe deeply here for as long as you would like to hold the stretch and then slowly release and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Dandasana (One Legged Plank Pose)
This full-body strengthening posture prepares your arms, legs and core for the challenging arm balance, Flying Pigeon. Start in Down Dog and roll your weight forward into a high push-up position, aligning your shoulders directly over your wrists.
Kick back through your heels, extend the crown of your head forward and your heels back behind you, lengthening and expanding through your entire body. Activate your core firmly and press the floor away with your hands. As you inhale, lift your right foot off the floor and let it hover about 3-6 inches above the mat.
Energetically hug your legs into the midline. Maintain the engagement of your core and the stability in your arms. Hold for a few deep breaths before switching to lift your left leg.
5. Knee-to-Arm Core Plank
This posture strengthens deeply into the arms and core, prepping the body for arm balancing. Start in a Three-Legged Down Dog with your right leg lifted in the air. As you exhale, draw your right knee toward your upper right arm as you shift your weight forward into a high plank, stacking shoulders directly over wrists.
Round your back body and press the floor away with your hands. Draw your belly firmly in and up and maintain your breath. As you inhale, extend your leg back up toward the sky. Exhale to again draw your knee toward your upper right arm (as high up toward your armpit as you can reach).
Continue for three slow and controlled, deep breaths before switching sides.
6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
This fundamental posture is essentially the basis of all arm-balancing poses, preparing your upper body and core for the actions necessary to fly.
Reminders: Do not let the head of your shoulder dip below your elbow joint. Create a 90-degree angle in your arms: shoulders in line with elbows and elbows aligned directly over your wrists. Align your shoulders, hips and legs, creating one strong, straight line through your body.
7. Navasana (Boat Pose)
This powerful core strengthener will fire up your deepest abdominals to prepare your body for lift off. For step-by-step instructions on how to do Boat pose, click here.
Hold for as long as you can maintain the integrity of the alignment and the rhythm of your breath before releasing and resting.
8. Bakasana (Crow Pose)
This quintessential arm balance opens the door to so many other arm balancing poses on your mat, prepping your body in a magnitude of ways. To learn how to do Crow pose, click here.
Tips: With your hips up high toward the sky, make sure you activate your core. Hug your legs into the midline, squeezing in toward each other. Round into your back creating a C-shape with your spine and hollow out your belly.
Continue to lean forward so far that you create a counter-balance of your weight and your legs suddenly become light and naturally lift off the mat. Immediately hug your heels toward your seat, maintain your breath for about 3-5 deep breaths and then slowly release back down.
9. Eka Pada Utkatasana (One Legged Chair Pose)
This core and leg strengthener also opens the outer hips to help you find, and prep you for, lift off in Flying Pigeon Pose.
Begin in Mountain pose with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend deeply into your knees, sitting low as if you’re sitting in a chair.
Focus your eyes on one still point and shift your weight into your left leg. Lift your right foot off the floor and flex your ankle. Bend your right knee and externally rotate at your hip joint to cross your right ankle over your left knee, creating a figure-4 shape with your legs.
Stay low in your squat, creating space in your outer right hip. Stay for a few long, deep breaths and then switch the lifted leg.
10. Flying Pigeon Prep and Takeoff
Once you have mastered all the previous steps, you can slowly begin to work toward the full posture.
Start in One-Legged Chair Pose with your right ankle crossed over your left knee. Flex your ankle hard and start to lean your torso forward, reaching your hands to the floor. Place your palms shoulder-width apart and spread your fingers evenly wide.
Create the same foundation in your hands that you worked in Crow Pose. Lift your hips high and wrap the toes of your right foot around your upper left arm (working to place your toes in the divot of your upper arm). Slowly begin to bend into your elbows, pointing them straight back behind you (working to create that perfect Chaturanga shape into your arms).
As you bend your elbows, you’ll create a shelf with your arms, which you can rest your right leg onto. Slowly begin to lean your weight forward until you feel a counter-balance of your weight and your left leg becomes light, lifting off the floor.
Once this happens, you can slowly begin to kick that leg straight back and up behind you while you simultaneously lean the weight of your torso further forward to account for the extra weight you’re sending back. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths before releasing and switching your legs.
Keep in mind that any challenging postures (such as Eka Pada Galavasana) are always a work-in-progress. You may not get it today or tomorrow, but if you keep practicing, with time, dedication and commitment, it will come to you. And you will learn much more in the journey toward the pose than you ever would if you could “just do it right now.”
So, relax and enjoy the journey, put in the work and have fun as you work toward finding flight in Flying Pigeon Pose.