Yoga Pose Breakdown: Active Pigeon

Here’s the quick guide to both performing and mastering Active Pigeon Pose.

Sanskrit: Sakriya Kapotasana

  • Sakriya – Active
  • Kapotasana – Pigeon

Goal/Intention: To engage the superficial and deep muscles of the hips and pelvis.  This aids in hip/pelvic stability and balance.


  1. From Downward Dog, lift one of your legs and shift your torso forward to place your leg down by your hands.  It’s important to not move your leg with your hands after this, as we are looking for engagement through active range of motion (where your foot lands by itself), rather than passive (when you then move your foot with your hands after it lands).
  2. Begin to walk your hands back until they align with your hips.  Then lift your hips as high off the mat as possible.  The Goal of Active Pigeon is to activate both glutes to lift your pelvis as high off the mat as you can.
  3. To refine the lift in the pelvis you can drive your front shin down into the mat to engage the front leg.  You can also untuck your back leg toes (as shown above) and squeeze the back leg glute to stabilize and accentuate the lift in the pelvis further.
  4.  If you choose to keep your hands by your sides, you can broaden your chest by rolling the shoulders back and hugging the elbows in to engage the lats.


  • To help achieve the lift with this pose one can place a block under the back leg hip.  An easy cue for this is “If you were wearing pants, place a block under the front pocket of your back leg.” (As shown in picture above)
  • For a larger backbend one can add their arms to the sky (Shown above)
  • It is possible to take a back bind by interlacing the fingers to accentuate the broadening of the chest
  • A way to mix this up is to also exalt your arms by taking the arm on the side of the back leg down to the thigh, while lifting the front leg side arm to the sky


Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Active Pigeon creates more engagement in the gluteal muscles and the muscles of the low back.  In the beginning one may begin to experience back muscle spasms when attempting to stay upright.  This is normal because on many of us these muscles are not properly conditioned due to our sedentary lifestyles.  If this occurs then walk your hands more out in front of you and allow your torso to hinge forward until you find a space of comfort.
    • To stay active the lowest you should go is on your forearms, with the block under the back leg hip
  • Serious low back, hip, or knee injuries may also be contraindicated in this pose.


  • Active Pigeon works best when put before any balancing or standing series
  • It also serves to better engage the hip musculature before deeper backbends.



Active Muscles:

  • Concentric: Rhombiod Major/Minor, Latisamus Dorsi, Glute Max (back leg), Hamstring (Front leg), Hip Adductors (Front leg).
    • (Front leg) Deep Hip External Rotators: piriformis, gemellus superior, obturator internus, gemellus, inferior, obturator externus, and quadrates femoris
  • Eccentric: Upper Trap, Levator Scapula, Pectoralis Major/Minor, SCM, Rectus Abdominis, Glute Max (Front leg), Hamstring (Back leg), Hip Adductors (Back leg)
  • Isometric: Pelvic Floor & Transverse Abdominis


If you’d like to know more about this posture check out my Yoga Injuries series on “Sleeping Butt Pigeon.”

  1. Yoga Injuries: Sleeping/Half Pigeon Part I: The Anatomy
  2. Yoga Injuries: Sleeping/Half Pigeon Part II: Community Dogma & Alternatives
  3. Yoga Injuries: Sleeping/Half Pigeon Part III: Soooo Now What?

More on Glutes & Backbends:

  1. Abs & Anti-Extension: “Inhale – Backbend”
  2. Get to Know Your Butt

Feel free to share your favorite cues or any questions in the comments section below!

In Love & Light,

-Dr. YG

5 thoughts on “Yoga Pose Breakdown: Active Pigeon

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