Eye of the Needle Pose
Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana) is a gentle variation of Pigeon Pose, but just as effective for opening the hips, and safer for those with any limitations such as knee or hip issues. In some cases, Pigeon is too intense for the people who need it the most. Eye of the Needle Pose is basically the same stretch as Pigeon, but since it’s done lying on your back it’s much easier to control the intensity. This pose works well in a warm-up sequence before yoga class. It’s a great way to wake up the lower body and prepare it for deeper stretches to come. It is also a good pose to finish a Vinyasa sequence before seated meditation. Try practicing the pose both at the start and the end of class and notice what difference you feel in the sense of spaciousness in the body.
Benefits of Eye of the Needle Pose
Eye of the Needle pose is a safe and effective way to stretch the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle. Hip flexors often become tight when you sit for long periods, while the hamstrings are often tight on runners and those in sports that do a lot of running. Releasing tension in the hips helps to create a sense of physical ease throughout the entire body, particularly in the knees and low back, as well as mental ease and clarity. Practicing Eye of the Needle pose often can produce a marked sense of openness in the hips in preparation for deeper poses such as Full Lotus (Padmasana) and Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). This is also great prep work for arm balances like Flying Pigoeon (Eka Pada Galavasana) and Grasshopper!
How to Do Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)
- Begin lying comfortably on the back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet flat down on the mat, about hip-distance apart.
- Walk your heels in toward your body until you can just graze the heels with the fingertips.
- Cross your right ankle on the left thigh, just below your bent knee, keeping the right foot flexed and active so that the toes of the right foot are pointing back toward the right knee. Ensure that you keep your right foot flexed throughout the duration of the pose in order to protect the knee joint from injury.
- Lengthen your tailbone down toward the ground to maintain the natural curve of the low back, and find the action of pressing your right knee away from your body.
- Thread your right arm through the space created between the legs, and interlace your fingers around the front of the left shin, or the back of the left thigh. Use the strength of your arms to gently pull your left leg closer to your chest while keeping your hips square.
- Keep the back of the head down and the backs of the shoulders relaxed down on the mat. Release any tension you may be holding in the neck.
- Continue to breathe deeply and relax the left knee to open the hips. Remain in the pose anywhere from 5-25 breaths.
- To come out of the pose, exhale to release the left leg and slowly lower the soles of both feet down onto the mat. You can gently rock the knees from side to side to release any tension.
- Then come back to center and repeat on the other side.
Do not force the stretch, go only as deep as is comfortable. With practice, you should naturally become more flexible. Keep the back flat on the mat. Do not raise your head or shoulders. If you can’t grasp your thigh, use a modification or a strap rather than come up off the mat.
Eye of the Needle Pose for Beginners
As with most yoga poses, you can make this pose more accessible for your needs or deepen it to match your level of practice. If you have very tight hips, stop after step 5, keeping the right foot on the floor. Remember to keep the right foot flexed to protect your knee.
If lying down pose doesn’t work for you, there’s also a chair version you can check out:
- Bring your right ankle to rest on your left thigh, keeping the knee in line with your ankle as much as possible. Hold this chair Pigeon for three to five breaths.
- You may forward bend to intensify the stretch if you like.
- Repeat with the left leg.
Eye of the Needle Pose for Advanced
To deepen the stretch, draw the right knee closer to your chest and use your left elbow to gently nudge your left knee away from your body. Lift your forehead up to meet your right knee.
Hip-opening poses tend to make many people clench their jaw and hold their breath because of the intense sensations that may arise. Remember to relax into the discomfort and keep breathing deeply! Not only does focusing on the breath help to promote mental stillness, it also helps your muscles to relax so that you can move deeper into your stretch and find more flexibility.