If there was only one pose I could do for the rest of my life, it would be without question, P I G E O N. Whether you’re a walker, runner, biker, hockey player, or someone who spends most of his/her time behind a desk or the wheel, this pose is… literally! for E V E R Y O N E !!!
Our bodies tighten up every 24 hr cycle with the hamstrings being the leader of the pack & the gluteus coming in a close 2nd. Wow does this ever reinforce the need to counteract this and move, breathe & STRETCH D A I L Y !
For me, spending a lot of time running & managing chronic back pain due to a sprained joint in my lower lumbar a few years ago, pigeon has become my ‘go to’, daily, MUST happen stretch. It targets those tight hamstrings, glutes, hip rotators & iliopsoas… areas that all contribute to lower back pain. The beauty of this pose is that it releases these areas by opening the muscles beneath them without putting too much torque on your already tight back muscles. In addition, this pose stretches the groin, relieves impinged piriformis & alleviates sciatic pain.
For athletes, this pose is CRUCIAL to overall health, speed & agility. Spacious hips relieve stress transferred to the knees and less knee strain means a greater range of motion for pivot sports, thus reducing risks to the ACL. Open hips also give the back a fuller range of motion. Flexible & aligned hips are not only essential for an athlete’s top performance, but for EVERYBODY’s ability to M O V E functionally on a daily basis.
But as a gentle reminder;): The true benefits of this pose will only begin when that voice inside your head is telling you it’s over. SERIOUSLY. P I G E O N : this guy right here? You either love him or hate him… & it all depends on ‘the day’;) So without further ado, here’s how it goes:
Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Draw your right knee behind your right wrist. Your shin may or may not be parallel to the front of your mat – & that’s OK! Extend your left leg long directly behind you. Tuck in your left toes & shoulder check behind your left shoulder to ensure your leg is lining up directly behind your hip (it has a tendency to “flair out”). Draw your left hip forward & your right hip back to ensure your hips remain square. Bring your torso upright. Press into the tops of your feet & your right shin for stability & try to sit as tall as possible. This will provide a beautiful stretch into the left psoas muscle + open through your front body extending through your thoracic spine. Stay here for as long as you’d like before peeling your chest forward to come down onto the palms of your hands, forearms, or even progress all the way down onto your forehead. If it helps, you may want to place a block under the palms of your hands or forearms in order to “bring the earth up to you”. Ensure you’re not rounding your mid/upper back too much.
Breathe deeply in & out of your nose. Soften your skin… your forehead, that space between your eyes & throughout your jaw. Allow every exhale to sink you deeper into that right outer hip. Do your very best to resist coming up & out of the pose or bracing to prevent release. If you find you’re gripping, struggling to breathe, or coming up & out of the pose, consider briefly taking yourself up and placing a block under your forearms or palms. Wherever you end up landing, ensure that you’re “comfortable” enough to completely let go. Allow your cervical spine to rest by placing your forehead on your folded forearms or hands or a block. TRUST in the support beneath you, within you… around you. Breathe in presence. This moment will be gone before you know it. If you need assistance letting go, allow your breath to exhale audibly out of your mouth. Never underestimate the power of a good ol’ sigh!!! Stay for at least 10 breath cycles or as long as you can.
Cautions & Modifications
If you have any knee pain at all, please roll onto your back & take figure 4 pose. The knees are a very unforgiving joint. Don’t push it. From your back, bend your knees so your feet are hip width apart. Take your right ankle & place it over top of your left quad so your right shin is parallel. Take both hands & grab underneath your left hamstring or around your left shin. Allow your shoulders to soften down to the mat & relax. Next, draw your left hamstring/shin in towards your midline as you gently press the right ankle away from you creating traction. This will ensure a stretch into the right outer hip. Take at least 10 breath cycles, breathing deeply into the belly, before switching sides.
The option to bend the back knee, reach back & grab the foot or ankle to exaggerate the stretch into the quadricep is always available. This provides a gorgeous opening through the mid/upper back + front line of the body as well. There are options to twist the upper body in the opposite direction from the front shin. And maybe check out the full variation …. KAPOTASANA For more info;)
**Always maintain a flexed foot when forward in the parallel position – this helps to protect our delicate knee joint**
Lie on your back with both feet mat width apart & your knees at about 90 degrees. From here, gently windshield wiper your knees back & forth several times to provide some internal hip rotation… & smile at the beautiful external work you’ve just previously completed.
When To Do This Pose
As often as you can! I do this pre & post run… during almost every asana practice… before, during & after any length of sitting particularly pre/during/post travel… day & night… + any time I feel called to it! When am I not doing this pose! I love this pose! But in all sincerity, I can honestly say pigeon pose plays such an instrumental part in my daily routine.
As always, move your body daily & find gratitude in just that! The wonderful ability to… M O V E ! Then breathe your body… with I N T E N T I O N ! Flood your muscles & cells with deep, rich, fresh oxygen every single day & pay attention to what your body is asking of you. Get quiet enough to listen to the whispers BEFORE they become screams… move, breathe & BE in your body as it is today giving it the gift of your attention. It’s amazing what some gentle stretching will do for your overall mobility, wellbeing & longevity.
So much love to all,
Love, Alisha xoxo