The Right Way to Do the Pigeon Pose

With increased physical and mental stress during tough routines, people are turning more and more to yoga. The most significant reason for a majority of people following a yoga lifestyle regularly is the amount of stress relief it provides for your body and soul.

Woman in Black Shirt Sitting on a Yoga Mat

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There are many kinds of yoga poses and stretches that a person can opt for to achieve overall relaxation and calmness, and one such pose is the pigeon pose. The pigeon pose is a primary yoga pose that enhances your body’s flexibility while providing you with a great stretching and opening of your hips.

This article discusses everything you need to know about the pigeon pose, including its benefits, how to perform it, the modifications and variations associated with it, and the common mistakes to avoid while doing this pose.

What is the Pigeon Pose?

The pigeon pose is also called the ‘Ado Mukh Kapotasana’ and is a pose especially utilized for opening and stretching your hips. This pose will be your ultimate game-changer if you experience hip or lower back pain.

The pigeon pose requires you to bend yourself down with one leg bent and one spread behind you. Leaning forward with your torso, you experience great flexibility, stretching, and relaxation of your lower back and hip muscles.

However, it is important to perform and maintain this posture accurately and correctly to attain a great stretch and avoid getting any muscle strains and injuries during the yoga session.

The pigeon pose has mainly three main variations, a few related modifications, and lots of crucial benefits.

Flexible young lady doing Half Pigeon yoga asana in studio

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Benefits of the Pigeon Pose

Apart from providing you with great flexibility and stretching of your lower body, the pigeon pose has the following benefits:

  • The pigeon pose opens your hips for enhanced stretching and relaxation.
  • It supports flexibility and mobility in your hip joint.
  • It stretches and lengthens your hip flexors.
  • It increases the overall flexibility of your body.
  • It provides core strength to your hip and lowers your back.
  • It targets and releases the psoas muscle.
  • It stretches your lower back and hip flexors which become tight due to sitting and standing for prolonged periods.
  • This pose alleviates hip and lower back pain.
  • The pigeon pose promotes digestion through movement and stretching of your lower abdomen.
  • It also helps fight stress, stiffness, and tightness in your hips.
  • This pose also alleviates stress and improves mental well-being.
Woman Practicing Yoga Backbend

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How to Perform the Pigeon Pose?

There are three main variations of the basic pigeon pose: the classic pigeon pose, the resting pigeon pose, and the king pigeon pose. The classic and resting pigeon poses have the same steps.

The Classic and Resting Pigeon Pose

Here is the step-by-step guide to performing the classic pigeon pose and resting pigeon pose yoga posture:

  1. The first step is to be in the downward dog pose. Start with being on your limbs, aligning your body so your knees are underneath your hips and your hands are underneath your shoulders.
  2. Place your hands flat on the ground and raise your hips towards the ceiling while pressing your hands and feet to the ground. Your body should form an upside-down ‘V’ shape in this position.
  3. Now, lift your right leg up and bring your right knee close to your right wrist. Then rotate your right leg and bring it to the left of your side so that the right knee is close to your left hip and the knee is at the front of the mat.
  4. While you rotate your right leg, make sure to keep your left leg as straight as possible to maintain strength and flexibility.
  5. When you bring your folded right leg to your left hip, remember to keep it far from touching your hip. Now gently lower the right side of your butt on the floor and evenly distribute your weight on both buttocks. If this seems difficult or too stretching for you, place a towel under the right side of your butt to provide comfort and support.
  6. Now, align your hands straight underneath your shoulders and, pressing your palms on the floor, elongate your spine. You will feel the stretch and relaxation in your spine and hips now. Look straight ahead to maintain the posture correctly. You are in the classic pigeon pose now.
  7. Now, breathe deeply and lower your body on your bent right leg when you exhale. As you do this, stretch your arms in front of you and bend your elbows slightly. You can place your forehead on the yoga mat if you can, or you can even use a yoga block for it. This forehead resting position is called the resting pigeon pose.
  8. You can bring back your shoulders in a relaxed position now.
  9. Hold this posture for approximately five to ten deep breaths.
  10. Repeat the pigeon classic and resting pose with the opposite leg now.
A Young Woman in a half Pigeon Yoga Pose

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The King Pigeon Pose

The king pigeon pose can be a quite tricky and challenging yoga pose for beginners. This is why trying the king pigeon pose is recommended once you have acquired great strength, stamina, and stability. For starters, you can begin with the classic pigeon pose, then the resting pigeon pose, and after a few practices and regular stretches, you can move on to this posture.

 Following are the steps to perform the king pigeon pose:

  1. As the first step, you must follow steps 1 to 5 of performing the classic pigeon pose.
  2. Now, as your right leg is bent and your left leg straight, bend your left knee and bring your left foot towards your back. Remember to keep your toe pointed for better alignment and posture.
  3. Next, lift up your left arm towards the ceiling and bend your elbow slowly towards your back. Now grab your extended left foot with your raised left arm to create pressure on the shoulders, spine, and hips.  
  4. You can lift your chin to look upwards but avoid bending your neck backward to create a rounded spine.
  5. Hold this posture for five to ten slow deep breaths.
  6. Now repeat the same process on the opposite side.

Modifications of the Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is undoubtedly strengthening and stretching and requires a lot of stamina too, which many people can’t absorb and handle. This is why there are all the adjustable modifications that you can use in case you experience the same stress and pressure while performing the pigeon pose:

1.      Blankets

You can try to use as many blankets as you want under your butt, knees, or shoulders to feel the comfort and padding when you perform the pigeon pose. Some people experience great discomfort while performing this pose because their bones dog into the ground, creating a pinching feeling for them.

You can use as much padding as you want to have a soft and comfortable surface beneath you. It is also important to distribute your body weight equally on all of your joints and this also sometimes becomes difficult due to uneven balance beneath you. Blankets can also balance the surface for you while providing comfort and padding simultaneously.

2.      Yoga Blocks

To add comfort, stability, and support to your joints, you can also use yoga blocks beneath your butt, heels, or shoulders in front to have a balanced and equal posture while distributing equal weight on all your body parts. This yoga prop offers support and relaxation to your joints and muscles.

3.      Strap

This modification is mostly used for the king pigeon pose as the strap helps you to hold your back bend foot instead of holding it with your hand. Holding your foot with the strap provides equal flexibility and stretching to your spine and shoulders while relaxing your joints to a great extent.

4.        Bolster

When you find it difficult and tricky for your hips to touch the ground equally, you can easily use a bolster under your hips to provide support to your butt and better alignment to all of your body while you perform the resting pigeon pose.

5.      Chair

If you have a knee injury or any other lower injury, this is the perfect modification for you to perform the pigeon pose still. You can sit on a chair and then stretch your leg up on the other knee or move your one hand back to feel the stretch while not putting any extra pressure on your hips and torso.

Young Asian woman stretching leg on wooden chair

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Variations of the Pigeon Pose

Following are some of the variations of the pigeon pose that you can try and exercise to experience more challenging yoga:

1.      Beginner Variation

When you have tight hips and are not quite ready to put all of your pressure on your hips all at once, you can begin with the pigeon pose while remaining seated down on your hips. Bend your right knee when seated, and bring and place your left foot on top of your right knee. Push your left knee ahead to feel the stretch and opening of your hips. Hold this posture for thirty to sixty seconds, and then repeat.

2.      Restorative Variation

If you face difficulty in the classic pigeon pose but still want to relax your hip opening, you can use the restorative variation by lying down on your back. Bend your left knee and place the right foot on top of it, then bring the left knee closer to your body as much as you can to feel the perfect stretch. Make sure to keep your spine straight and grounded to the floor while you maintain your posture.

Young Asian woman stretching leg on wooden chair 1

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3.      Mermaid Variation

When you feel the relaxation and comfort in your front hips, you can try the mermaid pose, which is the ultimate one-legged king pigeon pose. Bring your body up and square your hips from being in the downward-facing pose. Now bend your back leg and reach to tuck it in your raised and bent elbow. Just make sure not to crunch your back or lose your hip’s square position.

4.      Advanced Variation

This pose is the final advanced manifestation and the most challenging variation of the pigeon pose. You need to go into a full backbend and raise your back foot, bringing it to touch your forehead. This is an amazingly stretching and relaxing pose but requires a great amount of stamina, strength, and practice. 

Woman Practicing Yoga Backbend 1

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Common Mistakes While Performing the Pigeon Pose

The nature of the pigeon pose is quite difficult and strengthening. This is why it is very easily misunderstood, and many people fail to maintain the correct posture and alignment during the pose. Here are the most common mistakes while doing this pose:

Crooked Hips

While keeping your leg straight, your hips often move backward, creating misalignment. Try to push your back hip forward while pushing the forward hip a bit backward.

Arched Back

Many people formed an overly arched back during the pigeon pose, hurting and straining their back afterward. Contract your abs and your belly button pulling to your spine, to maintain a straight back.

Alleviated Hips

Touching the ground with your hips is an important aspect of this pose. If you cannot do this, use modifications like a blanket or bolster to create a flat surface for yourself to bring your hips down.

Knee Too Close

While maintaining the posture, many people put undue pressure on their knee by bringing it too close to their body. Try to keep your knee as far from your body as possible to keep it parallel to the front of the mat.

Fit young Asian woman practicing One Legged King Pigeon yoga pose on terrace

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Risks Involved in Performing the Pigeon Pose

Due to its extreme stretch and flexibility, the pigeon pose can be risky and harmful for the following people:

  • If you are pregnant or experience muscle pains, you should avoid performing the pigeon pose as it can lead to multiple muscle spasms in pregnancy.
  • If you had an earlier knee injury or knee pain, you should avoid doing the pigeon pose or do it in the yoga instructor‘s presence. The reason is that many people put undue pressure on their knees during this pose, leading to knee injuries.
  • If you feel weakness in your tendons and muscles, you should consult with a physician first before performing this pose, as the pigeon pose further weakens the tendons with time.
  • If you experience chronic pains in your spine, back, lower back, or hips, you should perform the pigeon pose with utmost care or consult with your doctor first.
  • Suppose you experience any pain, pressure, or pinching feeling in any of your areas while performing the posture. In that case, you should immediately stop doing this pose, as continuing can lead to muscle strains, tissue rupture, and more.

Related Questions

Following are the most commonly asked related questions regarding the pigeon pose:

What is the pigeon pose?

The pigeon pose is the ultimate stretching and flexing posture for your body, allowing you to experience hip opening and relaxation of your spinal muscles.

How many kinds of pigeon poses are there?

There are mainly three kinds of pigeon poses most widely used by people, the classic pigeon pose, the resting pigeon pose, and the kind pigeon pose.

How can you perform the pigeon pose?

You can perform the pigeon pose by sitting on your butt and extending one leg straight at the back while bringing your other leg in front of you and bending it to reach the opposite side of your body.

Can you use variations and modifications to the pigeon pose?

 Yes, there are quite some modifications that you use for your comfort. There are some very challenging variations as well that you can try over time and experience.

What are the risks of performing the pigeon pose?

People with past knee injuries, severe muscle strains, weakened tendons, chronic pains, and pregnant women should avoid performing the pigeon pose without professional assistance or consulting with their physician.

Conclusion

The pigeon pose is the ultimate relaxer and strength-proving posture that provides an opening and a great relief to your hips and lower back. In this article, we have discussed the pigeon pose, its benefits, the kinds of pigeon poses, modifications and variations attached to it, steps to perform it, and the risks involved in doing it incorrectly.

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