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Flip Your Grip and Master King Pigeon Pose With These 8 Prep Poses

Does flipping your grip in King Pigeon Pose (often referred to as One-Legged King Pigeon or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Dancer Pose, Bow Pose, or any backbend pose seem impossible?

Do you feel you are not “bendy” enough to practice King Pigeon pose? No worries! Many yoga practitioners have the same thoughts.

But there are a few key yoga poses that will help safely prepare your body for King Pigeon Pose. And the good news is that when you practice these preparatory poses regularly, the road to flipping your grip will be even faster.

Flipping your grip in King Pigeon requires an increased range of motion in the shoulders, spine, chest, and quadriceps

One-Legged King Pigeon is a beautiful heart-opening backbend that requires more than just a bendy spine to find the full variation . . .

Flipping your grip in King Pigeon requires an increased range of motion in several key parts of the body like the shoulders, spine, chest, and quadriceps.

The yoga poses below will help prepare these key areas in the body so you can flip your grip in this advanced yoga pose and other backbend poses too.

Practice These 8 Yoga Poses to Flip Your Grip and Find the Full Expression of King Pigeon Pose:

It’s important to note that many of these poses (and the ‘peak’ pose of finding the full expression of King Pigeon) require a lot of shoulder, hip, and spinal mobility. Avoid this sequence if you have any shoulder, hip or spine issues.

1. Supported Fish Pose (Supported Matsyasana)

Supported Fish Pose gently opens your thoracic spine, chest and shoulders, and also allows you to connect to your breath.

As a yoga teacher, I love the many variations available for Supported Fish Pose to accommodate different levels of flexibility and what your body needs.

Let’s Try It:

  • Grab two yoga blocks and begin seated on your yoga mat
  • Place one yoga block vertically along your thoracic spine (upper spine) and slowly recline onto the block with your legs extended
  • Place the second yoga block under your head for support or allow the crown of your head to relax towards the mat (similar to traditional Fish Pose)
  • Option to keep the legs extended or bring the soles of the feet together with the knees wide for a Reclined Butterfly variation to slowly open the hips
  • Keep the arms by your side for a few breaths as you focus on opening your chest and spine
  • If you would like to add a shoulder opener, slowly extend your arms toward the ceiling
  • Stay here, or to add intensity to the shoulder and chest stretch, reach the arms overhead
  • Remain in your chosen variation of Fish Pose for 30 seconds
  • To exit, press your forearms into the mat and engage your core to come back to seated

If you would like to use a yoga wheel instead of yoga blocks to enhance your Supported Fish Pose, check out the video tutorial How to Use a Yoga Wheel.


2. Shoulder Warm-Up With Yoga Strap

To flip your grip for the full variation of One-Legged King Pigeon, your shoulders need to be warm and open to stay safe and find the full rotation in the shoulder joint.

A simple yet effective daily shoulder opener will help prepare your shoulders for the intense external rotation needed to flip your grip.

Let’s Try It:

  • Find a long yoga strap (or belt or towel) and stand at the top of your mat
  • Grip the strap and extend your arms forward at about shoulder height with your hands wider than your shoulders
  • Slowly bring the strap overhead and behind your back to allow your shoulders to full rotate (if you cannot easily bring your hands behind your back, then make your grip wider on the strap)
  • Continue to warm up your shoulders by rotating the arms in front and behind you
  • To add a gentle stretch, shorten your grip on the strap and bring your arms overhead until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders
  • Pause here for a few breaths and then release
  • Repeat 3-4 times

Want to learn more ways to deepen your yoga practice using a yoga strap? Watch this video tutorial to learn 4 Ways to Deepen Your Practice with a Strap.

3. Cat/Cow Pose

Combining Cat Pose and Cow Pose to gently warm the spine is a favorite among yogis. Use your breath to connect the poses and feel free to pause in either pose to allow a deeper stretch in the chest and back.

Cat/Cow Pose also continues to warm-up the shoulders and spine to help prepare you for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Table Top Pose
  • To practice Cow Pose: inhale and lift your chest and gaze toward the ceiling allowing your belly to relax down towards the mat. Cow Pose opens your front body
  • To practice Cat Pose: exhale and draw your navel toward your spine, and press your hands firmly into the yoga mat to round your spine. Cat Pose opens your back body
  • Continue connecting Cat Pose and Cow Pose with your breath for a few rounds
  • Again, feel free to pause in either pose for a few breaths to find a deeper stretch


4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra Pose will continue to warm up the spine and open the chest and shoulders. Cobra Pose will also activate your lower body, including your glutes, which are also needed when practicing backbends.

When practicing Cobra Pose, focus on lifting the chest to find length in your spine to protect your low back.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in prone position on your yoga mat with your hands under your shoulders and resting on the mat
  • Make sure your legs and feet are hip-distance apart and your toenails are pressing into the mat
  • On your inhale, press your hands firmly into the mat and engage your back body to lift your chest
  • Keep your knees and feet on the mat
  • Slowly straighten into your arms to add intensity and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to bring the bend into your thoracic spine
  • Hold and breath for 15-30 seconds and then slowly release



5. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Flipping your grip is not just about open shoulders and a bendy spine. To flip your grip, your hip flexors, psoas and quadriceps need to be open as well to get your back foot closer to the body.

This will help your shoulders rotate more easily when you flip your grip. Low Lunge is a great yoga pose to invite a gentle stretch in your lower body.

Let’s Try It:

  • From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right foot forward and place it in between your hands
  • Be sure the right knee is stacked directly over the right ankle
  • Release your left knee to the mat. Feel free to place a yoga blanket under your knee for added cushion if needed
  • Slowly shift your weight forward to invite the stretch in your left hip, psoas and quadricep
  • After a few breaths, extend your arms toward the ceiling and allow your hips to sink closer to the ground
  • Add a gentle backbend with arms extended or elbows bent (cactus arms) to continue to warm up the spine
  • Hold for a few breaths, and then bring your hands to the mat
  • Repeat on the opposite side


6. Lizard Pose With Quadricep Stretch

Lizard Pose provides a deeper stretch for our inner hips and the added quadricep stretch is the perfect bonus for our One-Legged King Pigeon Pose prep.

The key to this pose is to connect to your breath and focus on releasing tension in your hips. The more you release the tension in your hips, the more your quadriceps will open as well.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Low Lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the mat
  • Place your hands inside your right foot and focus on keeping your right knee close to your right shoulder
  • Hold for a few breaths
  • Bend your back left knee, and reach back for the left foot with your right hand
  • You will find a big rotation in the right shoulder by reaching back to grab the inside of your left foot (use a yoga strap if you’re not yet able to reach the back foot)
  • Spiral your chest open toward the ceiling and draw your left foot closer to your body to add intensity to the quadricep stretch
  • Drop down to your left forearm for a more intense stretch
  • Take a few deep breaths, then slowly release
  • Repeat on the opposite side


7. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon Pose is the base yoga pose to flip our grip for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose and offers an amazing stretch to the outside of the hip and the hip flexors.

This pose can be very intense if your hips are tight, so always keep a yoga block or yoga blanket close by for modifications as needed.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Downward Facing Dog, then lift your right leg out behind you
  • Plant your right knee behind your right wrist and bring your right foot toward the left side of your mat
  • Keep your left leg extended and resting on your mat
  • If your right hip is lifted off the mat, rest your hip on a yoga block or yoga blanket
  • Make sure your hips and shoulders are square to the front of your mat
  • Inhale to lift your chest and lengthen your spine, then exhale and lower the chest closer to the mat
  • Depending on how tight your hips are, you can keep the palms on the mat, bring your forearms to a block or the mat, or extend your arms and rest your chest on the ground
  • Stay for 15-30 seconds and then release to a three-legged Down Dog and shake your right leg out to bring circulation back into your hip
  • Repeat on the opposite side


8. Mermaid Pose With Shoulder Stretch

Mermaid Pose is the perfect prep pose to flip our grip in One-Legged King Pigeon. The full expression of Mermaid Pose will open the chest, quadricep, side body, shoulders and hips, and also help you understand some of the mechanics needed to eventually flip your grip.

Plus, prepping for Mermaid Pose offers a great shoulder stretch to help you open your shoulder for One-Legged King Pigeon.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Pigeon Pose on the right side
  • Make sure your hips and shoulders are square toward the front of the mat and your palms are on the floor
  • Bend your left knee and bend your left foot close to your seat
  • Reach your left arm forward and make a big rotation in your left shoulder to reach back and grab your left foot (use a yoga strap if needed)
  • To feel the shoulder opener on your left shoulder, keep a firm grip on your foot, keep your arm straight and then slowly bring your left shoulder forward
  • Pause when the stretch is intense and breathe deeply


After holding the shoulder stretch for a few breaths in Mermaid Pose, you have the option to move directly into the full expression of Mermaid Pose.

Let’s Try It:

  • Slowly bring the left foot closer to your body to stretch the quadricep and psoas
  • Once you feel comfortable, slide your left foot into your left elbow crease and reach your left hand toward the ceiling
  • Reach your right arm forward and make a big rotation in your right shoulder to allow your right hand to reach back and grab the left hand (your foot is still in the elbow crease)
  • Pause here and breathe deeply
  • When you’re ready, slowly release and repeat on the opposite side


Now You’re Ready for One-Legged King Pigeon Pose!

As a yoga teacher, I have found the prep for the flipping your grip is absolutely key. Now you are ready to try what we came here to do: flip your grip in King Pigeon Pose!

If you did a proper warm-up by practicing this sequence, then you are prepared to teach your body the movements needed to flip your grip.

Let’s Try It:

  • Begin in Mermaid Pose with the shoulder stretch (pose #8)
  • Bring your left foot as close as you can to your body
  • Actively flex your left foot and turn the toes away from your body
  • With your left hand, grip your left foot so the palm of your hand grabs the top of your foot. Try to grab as much of your foot as you can to help flip your grip
  • If you can, bring your left foot even closer to your body so your shoulder can rotate easier
  • Be sure you are bending with your thoracic spine (mid back) and not just your lumbar spine (low back)
  • If your shoulder feels ready, keep a grip on your foot and slowly rotate your shoulder to flip your grip
  • Once you have it, continue to open your chest and shoulders by pressing your foot into your hand
  • If you’re feeling comfortable, bring your right hand to the left foot as well for the full expression


King Pigeon and Flipping Your Grip: Just the Beginning!

It is important to remember your yoga practice is a journey, and part of our yoga practice is learning to enjoy the journey.

Always honor your body and where you are in your practice. If you want to experience the amazing heart opener in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, then continue to practice yoga regularly and revisit this sequence often.

With time and practice, you will flip your grip in King Pigeon, other backbends, and beyond!

Increase Your Full-Body Mobility With This Online Yoga Program

Take the Flexibility and Mobility yoga program with Kelly Pender on YA Classes by YouAligned! This 6-class program is designed to increase full-body flexibility and mobility – it’s the perfect companion to this article.

Yoga Program
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Michelle Stanger

Michelle Stanger is a 200-RYT yoga instructor with years of teaching experience. She specializes in Power Vinyasa, Buti Yoga and handstands and is best known as a teacher for her fun, light-hearted attitude and classes that are as challenging as they are welcoming.

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