Mermaid Pose vs. King Pigeon: What Is The Difference?

To an unfamiliar gaze, the mermaid pose and king pigeon pose seem to mirror each other. Both involve backbends with the back foot raised toward the head and the front leg bent in front. So, is there a difference between the two, or are they the same thing? Technically, they aren’t the same, but the mermaid pose is a modified version of the king pigeon pose.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Mermaid Pose and King Pigeon Pose are related to each other and involve backbends with the back foot raised towards the head, and the front leg bent in front.
  • The Mermaid Pose is a modified version of King Pigeon Pose and is considered less advanced.
  • The main difference between the two poses is weight distribution and how the rear leg is held.

We’re here to explain, so continue reading to learn more about these poses, how they differ, and how to achieve them safely!

Mermaid Pose

The mermaid pose is an advanced pose involving a deep backbend. The front leg remains tucked near the hips, like in a traditional pigeon pose, while the back leg is bent up toward the head. The hands are linked behind the head, creating the perfect place for the rear foot to rest in the upward position.

In the mermaid pose, participants experience a deep stretch through the front of the body, including the chest, groin, and thighs. In addition to the refreshing stretch, this pose stimulates the internal organs while simultaneously targeting the core muscles.

Is Mermaid Pose Advanced?

The mermaid pose is a simplified version of the king pigeon pose, but it’s still considered an advanced pose. To achieve the mermaid pose, one must have openness and flexibility throughout the body, as tight muscles can inhibit the body and cause discomfort through this move.

However, compared to the king pigeon pose, the mermaid pose is modified, so it’s not quite as advanced. You can use the mermaid pose as a stepping stone to the king pigeon pose, but it isn’t where you should start if you’re new to yoga.

Instead, you should start with simpler moves, like the pigeon pose, until you feel comfortable progressing.

King Pigeon Pose

The king pigeon pose gets its name from its Sanskrit name, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, which means “one” (Eka), “foot” (Pada), “king” (Raja), “pigeon” (Kapota), “pose” (asana). So, it directly translates to the one-foot king pigeon pose. You also may hear this pose referred to as the one-legged or single-legged king pigeon pose, but they refer to the same thing.

The pose incorporates the pigeon pose, where the front leg is bent with the rear leg extended behind you. The king pigeon pose takes things a step up with an incorporated backbend, which opens the front of the body and requires flexibility and openness.

Is King Pigeon Pose Advanced?

The king pigeon pose is widely considered an advanced pose. The king pigeon pose is a step from other variations of the pigeon pose, where your rear leg remains extended behind you.

To achieve the king pigeon pose, one must have exceptional flexibility and openness in the hips, spine, and shoulders. Without adequate openness, you’ll struggle to achieve the backbend without discomfort.

What Is The Difference Between Mermaid Pose And King Pigeon?

King Pigeon Post

The mermaid pose is simply a modified variation of the king pigeon pose. Since the king pigeon pose requires exceptional flexibility and openness throughout the body, the mermaid pose can be used as a stepping stone to train the body for the advanced version.

At first glance, the mermaid pose and the one-legged king pigeon pose look the same. The hips and legs are situated in a nearly identical manner, the arms are lifted, and the ribcage is open. So, what is the difference?

The primary differences between the two are your weight distribution and how you hold your rear leg. In the mermaid pose, your hips shift to one side, making it easier to obtain the posture. Your toes on the rear foot tuck into your elbow, securing the foot in its position.

In the single-leg king pigeon pose, your hips remain centered, which can feel more difficult, especially if you have tight hips (like tight hip flexors). You lift your arms above your head, bending at the elbows to bring your hands back. Your rear leg is bent, like the mermaid pose, but you hold your foot with your hands instead of tucking your toes into your elbow.

Both poses create beautiful arched silhouettes, but the mermaid pose is slightly angled, while the one-legged king pigeon pose is centered.

How To Achieve The Mermaid And King Pigeon Poses

The mermaid and king pigeon poses are advanced poses, so you must prepare properly and listen to your body throughout the poses. Never push your body too far, as you could injure yourself. So, work within your limits and stop if your body feels taxed.

Prepare Your Body

Before attempting to contort your body into the mermaid or king pigeon pose, preparing and warming up is vital. If you rush into things, you risk injuries, so it’s best to take it slow. Take your time, warming up your body and testing your flexibility for readiness.

Here are a few areas to check:

  1. Shoulders: Your shoulders play a significant role in these poses, as they facilitate the rotation of the arms. They work in tandem with the chest and back throughout this pose, allowing you to hold your foot. Warm up and test your flexibility using heart openers, like bridge and wheel variations, and side body lengthening poses, like the Trikonasana.
  2. Hips, psoas, and quads: The back leg muscles stretch through these poses, so it’s essential to ensure they’re warm and limber before attempting them. In addition, you’ll need adequate flexibility to avoid overstretching and injuries. Try the half lotus and half frog poses to prepare for these poses.
  3. Ankles and knees: You need solid ankle and knee stability for this pose. These joints don’t need to stretch through this move – instead, they need to give structure and stability. Practice slowly, monitoring for pain or sensation in these joints. If you feel pain or sensation, it could indicate you’ve overstretched, so you should stop for the time being.

Start Slow

Once you prepare your body by warming and stretching your muscles, it’s time to start practicing the move. Don’t rush into the pose, as you risk injury. Instead, take your time by working your way up to these poses, as they’re reasonably advanced.

To start, get into a pigeon pose by following these steps:

  1. Start in the three-legged dog pose with your right leg up. Next, sweep your right knee forward between your hands.
  2. When you’re ready, settle into the pose by adjusting your right foot and knee. Bring your right heel closer to your pelvis if you notice tightness in your hips, or bring your right shin more parallel to your mat if you’re comfortable.
  3. Keep the ankle steady, avoiding twisting in any particular direction, as this can cause pain in the knee.
  4. Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your foot up with your toes pressed gently into the mat.
  5. Align your hips, bringing your left hip forward to square off your hips.
  6. Hold the pose for several breaths or as long as you feel comfortable, then repeat the process on the other leg.

Move Into Mermaid Pose

After you feel comfortable and flexible in the pigeon pose, progress to the mermaid pose. Move forward only when you’re ready – don’t feel pressured to progress if your body isn’t prepared. When you’re comfortable, follow these steps to advance the movement:

  1. Start in the pigeon pose with your right leg forward and right knee bent.
  2. Bend your left leg, bringing your heel up toward your head. Your body should form a gentle reverse “C” in this pose.
  3. Extend both arms upward. Bend your left arm and rotate your body back to allow you to hook your foot in your elbow.
  4. Bend your right arm and interlace both hands behind your head.
  5. Hold the pose for five to ten breaths, release the pose, and repeat it on the other leg.

Progress Into King Pigeon Pose

Once you feel comfortable and confident in the mermaid pose, you can progress into the king pigeon pose. Follow these steps:

  1. Start in the pigeon pose with your right knee forward.
  2. Instead of shifting off to one side, as you would in a mermaid pose, tuck your right foot toward your hips, so it almost tucks underneath you.
  3. Bend your left knee, keeping it aligned with your spine instead of shifting off to the side.
  4. Extend your arms to the ceiling and bend both elbows.
  5. Reach backward for your left foot, keeping it aligned with your spine and your body upright. As you hold your foot, keep your it active (flexed or pointed) to protect your ankle.
  6. Raise your gaze to the sky or ceiling, keeping your cervical spine active to avoid discomfort.
  7. Hold the pose for five to ten breaths, release the pose, and repeat it on the other leg.