I love this pose! It is the antidote to the sitting, slouching, and driving we do all day long. It is also, in many ways, a counter pose for last month’s focus.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana combines external rotation of one hip, hip extension of the other, full shoulder flexion, spinal extension, and knee and elbow flexion. The front leg is bent at an angle to work as a kickstand for the hips and spine. We usually think of this front as the pigeon part of the pose, but in reality it is simply the base. The focus of the posture is the backbend (you know, how pigeons puff out their chests). Many people have trouble with the externally rotated front leg because it puts pressure on the knee joint. Ideally, for the safety and stability of the knee, the knee joint is at 90 degrees. That would put the front shin parallel to the front edge of the mat. Most people are not able to get anywhere near being that open with correct alignment of the hips. I recommend closing the angle a bit and lifting the hips away from the ground. This does 2 things: it takes some pressure off the knee, but also creates strength in the front hip that you are stretching. The external rotators are stabilizers, so should be strengthened as much as—if not more than—stretched. With strength-building in mind, the hip should not be propped up with a block. If this piece of the posture needs to be modified, I recommend blocks under the hands and/or closed angle of the knee, or a completely different alignment of the front leg such as lunge instead.
Now, on to the other parts of the posture. The back leg is in hip extension, and knee flexion. That means the front of the hip and the thigh are being stretched close to their max. Just like in hanumanasana, we need to add spinal extension here to add to the deep arching back that occurs. Lastly, we dive over with the arms to catch (eventually!) the back foot. This requires deep flexibility in the shoulders. Preparation includes forearm standing, forearm scorpion (vrschikasana), urdhva dhanurasana, shin-up-the-wall pose, viparita dandasana, and natarajasana. Lots of fun stuff! If you do not know what these are, you can come to the intensive and find out!
This posture can be worked on from all angles and broken down into pieces. Just remember that the main focus is the deep backbend, hip extension, and shoulder flexion, not the stuff the front leg is doing. This posture is assisted by blocks and a strap. You can also use the wall to prop the back shin. Have fun being the King of Pigeons this month!