Not to be confused with Salamba Kapotasana, or Eka Pada Kapotasana, a Full Kapotasana is King Pigeon Pose without modification. You will sometimes see it listed as Raja Kapotasana, Raja meaning ?royal? in Sanskrit. It is one of the most challenging backbends one will ever attempt in a yoga practice, and so should only be practiced by more advanced yoga practitioners or with modifications for those hoping to achieve it.
Benefits of Kapotasana
Kapotasana has the many benefits of back bends in general including stretching the entire front of the body including the quadricept muscles, the hip flexors (psoas), the muscles of the pelvis and groin, the abdominals, the chest muscles, the shoulders and even the neck. It helps to stimulate and balance all the chakras from Manipura, Swadhistana, Anahata and Visshudha Chakras, as well as the subtle energy of Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara. The asana also helps to invigorate the endocrine glands associated to these chakras, namely the organs of digestion, and the Thyroid and Parathyroid glands as well as the Thymus located behind the heart. The posture improves spinal alignment and increases energy through Sushumna, the spinal pathway for subtle energy to reach the Crown from the Root Chakra. It helps to cure uro-sexual ailments as well as tones the uterus. Every yoga asana helps to release stored samskaras, or deep impressions of the mind and emotions, and this asana is no different.
The adrenal glands and kidneys which are associated with the second chakra are especially vivified through the practice of this asana. Since the second Chakra is associated to the water element, it gives us freedom of movement and also joins as in chemical bonding, our energy with that of others, as is most tremendously shown in the example of sexual connection between people. When practicing Kapotasana the ability to give and receive love is deepened and we are freed from desiring sex from a state of ego-need only. In other words, sexual interaction becomes a union of love and higher experience instead of a desire to own another individual by using sexual energy or lust as a means of interaction. It heals the wounds of the Second and Third Chakras and allows this new energy to be utilized by the Heart for the experience of greater compassion. Since most of us define ourselves through our relationship with others, it is important to connect to one another from a loving space, instead of an egoic one in order to reflect our truest, highest selves. Kaoptasana helps to release emotional patterns which would keep us stuck in an egoic space, especially sexually.
How to Perform Kapotasana
To practice this asana, be sure your body is sufficiently warmed up. Start by kneeling with the knees just underneath the hips or slightly narrower. Allow the rest of the body to stack above the knees as if practicing Tadasana form the knees. Take the hands to the sacrum and gently press the lower back down toward the pelvis. Take a deep breath and begin to bring the chin into the chest while allowing the shoulders and chest to open deeply, letting the shoulders fall back and down away from the ears. Do not press the hips forward, but allow the upper back to relax and firm the shoulders by pressing the scapula back and down the spine. Bring your heart up and start to release your head back. Take the hands now to the heart in Namaste position. Take your time allowing the head to fall back and the spine to arch, letting go one breath at a time. When you can lift your heart no more and drop your head no more, allow the hands to rise from the heart and move to the forehead and then let the fingertips graze the floor as close to the feet as possible. If you are ready, you can allow the palms to rest on the floor with the fingers facing the toes. The gaze should be placed on the floor as close to the middle of the feet as possible. Make sure not to let the legs part or the knees roll out on the mat.
Balance the back bend with a slight moving of the hips forward so that the spine does not feel overly compressed. From here, begin to walk the hands either to the soles of the feet or up to the calves, and place them there, letting the head come closer to the floor, until eventually the crown or forehead rests between the feet. At this point, the forearms will also rest on the floor, with the hands resting on the feet or legs. Keep your elbows shoulder width apart and lift the upper spine as you hold the posture. Try to expand the chest on the inhale and keep the expansion in the chest on the exhale. Try to lengthen the spine with every breath. The full duration of this asana is for 30 seconds or longer, but great care should be taken not to take the body too far too fast. To release the asana, take another deep breath and as you exhale walk the hands back to the floor and use the floor to press back up to the knees, aligning the spine again perpendicular to the floor. From here take another deep breath and sit back into Balasana for at least the same duration as the initial posture was held.
Modifications for Kapotasana
Do not release all the way back, and work as you would in Ustrasana, to lift the heart while keeping the hands at Anjali Mudra or Namaste while dropping the head back. Practice in this manner until the spine and front body becomes more supple.
Contraindications for Kapotasana
This pose is contraindicated for those who have high or low blood pressure, are suffering from migraine or headache, have trouble sleeping or have recently had back or neck surgery or are dealing with slipped disc or sciatica. Otherwise, it can be practiced with modifications by students who have warmed up their bodies sufficiently and wish to reach a higher level of opening in the spine, shoulders, neck and hips.
Pictures of Kapotasana
If you have any pictures of King Pidgeon Pose, please edit them in here.
Videos of Kapotasana
Gerber, Richard, M.D. Vibrational Medicine, Third Edition. Bear & Company. Rochester, Vermont. 2001.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India. ISBN 81-86336-14-1