Hate to love or love to hate it, there's no denying that Pigeon Pose is a super important stretch to incorporate into your practice - your hips will thank you for it!
Whether you're a runner or cyclist upping the mileage over the summer months, or simply spending more time than you'd like sitting behind a desk, chances are your hip flexors - particularly the psoas and piriformis - are getting overly tight, which in turn can cause all sorts of nasty low back and sciatic pain.
This pose really can be a game changer, which is why I thought I'd introduce you to no less than 7 variations of this pose - amongst them I hope you'll find some that are accessible even on those days when everything is super tight, as well as challenge poses to inspire your practice! Any questions feel free to drop me a line :)
1. Supine Pigeon
You don't even have to get out of bed for this one. Simply cross the left ankle to rest on the opposite thigh, interlace fingers behind the thigh and draw legs towards the right shoulder. Keep the foot flexed and upper body relaxed throughout, seeking to push the left knee away and the right knee draws closer.Repeat on opposite leg.
2. Seated Pigeon
As with supine version, cross right ankle onto left thigh then slowly bend the left knee in towards the chest. Keep spine long and chest open, hands press into floor behind the back. Repeat on opposite leg.
3. Double Pigeon
Sitting cross legged, take hold of one foot and place the ankle bone on top of the opposite knee. Keeping the spine long and shoulders back, slowly bend forwards from the hips.
Starting in a lunge position, hands either side of your right leg, slowly shuffle the right foot over toward the left hand. Find a comfortable way to bring your right knee to the floor - if the shin cannot lie parallel to the front on the mat draw the right ankle back toward the left hip until the knee meets the ground comfortably. The hips should be facing directly forward and the left quads face the floor. If to maintain this position your hips are hovering a few inches above the ground, try supporting yourself by slipping a rolled-up blanket beneath your hips. From here slowly walk the hands forward , bringing the chest toward the floor. Relax any tension in the shoulders and jaw, focus on the breath. Repeat on other leg.
5. One-Legged King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
If you can comfortably sit in half-pigeon, give this a go. Taking care to ensure the left shin is planted on the floor and the right leg is stretched straight back, knee facing downwards, place the fingertips of both hands in front of the left shin and squeeze the shoulder blades together to open the chest. Without collapsing the back of the neck, lean the head back as far as possible. If you can maintain your balance without the support of your hands, place them on your hips and push the pelvis toward the floor. Stay here for a few breaths.
Placing the hands back on the floor in front for support, squeeze the muscles of the right thigh to draw the right shin perpendicular to the floor., the right foot approaching the head. On an exhalation, reach back over the head with the left hand and try to grab the foot (remember, if you're thinking "yeah right!" you can use a strap to draw the foot toward the head). Rest the head against the foot.
To come out of the pose, straighten the right leg and bring it in front, then straighten the left leg. Forward bend as a counter posture. Repeat on other leg.
6. Pigeon on a Chair
Just as the other variations, cross the ankle over the opposite knee, keeping the foot flexed. To deepen the stretch and build strength in the quads, try to sit backwards in the supporting leg as in Chair Pose. Remember the hips push back opposed to the knee pushing forward, weight through the heel. Repeat on other leg.
7. Flying pigeon (Eka Pada Galavasana)
If you've got the stretch down and feel like testing your core strength, upper body strength, balance and overall nerve, give this a go! It's a real all rounder, and is challenging for that reason.
There are a number of ways of getting into this, I prefer to start in Pigeon on a chair. From there, plant the hands shoulder width apart as you would in crow. From here, hook the flexed right foot over the left triceps, and press the right knee into the right triceps. Keeping the gaze forward, slowly raise the hips whilst pushing through the shin into the backs of the arms. Holding the core strong, slowly bend the left leg to bring the toes off of the floor. Maintain balance here for a moment before straightening the left leg out behind. Repeat on opposite leg.
Good Luck! Here for any questions, as ever :)
Love, Alys x