Pigeon Pose is an amazing hip opener. It also happens to be one of my favorite poses. Whenever this pose comes up in a class, I silently wish to myself that the teacher will get sidetracked and let us stay in the pose for an extra couple of minutes. It’s that good.
You may not know this, but we hold a lot of emotional stress in our hips, just as we do in our necks. When we do hip openers, some of this stress and tension is relieved. Perhaps this is the reason I love Pigeon Pose so much.
I do know, however, that this pose is not everyone’s favorite. In fact, some people loth it. It can be extremely uncomfortable, especially for men.
The good news is that is pose is highly customizable. You can modify the pose completely to tailor your needs. Whether that’s deepening the stretch into a King Pigeon or taking it back a few notches with a prop or doing a different pose with the same benefits in its place.
Pigeon Pose Yoga Benefits
- Stretches the glutes, groin, and psoas
- Can help to alleviate sciatic pain
- Stimulates organs
- Relieves lower back pressure
- Stretches hip rotators and hip flexors
- Relieves stress and emotionally tension
- Improves posture
Pigeon Pose Contraindications
Always consult your doctor and yoga teacher before performing yoga poses or exercises. This pose, as do all yoga poses, has contraindications. If you have the following, you should not do Pigeon Pose.
- Ankle, knee, or hip injury
- Extreme tightness in hips
- Sacroiliac or lower back injury
How to do Pigeon Pose
- Start in Downward Dog.
- Lift one leg behind you into Three-Legged Dog.
- Then bring your lifted leg forward, bending your knee, laying your leg on your mat behind your hands. The more perpendicular your shin is to the front of your mat, the better.
- You can stay upright, using your hands to support you or you can start to lean forward. To deepen the stretch, you can come down onto your forearms, or even bring your forehead to the mat if it is comfortable.
Pigeon Pose Modifications
The best modification for this pose is using a block, folded yoga blanket, or folded yoga mat under your hip for support. If your body is tense, it will have a hard time releasing. When you place a support under your hip, it allows your body to let go.
Alternatives to Pigeon Pose
If Pigeon Pose is uncomfortable even with modifications, I would suggest using Deer Pose in its place. When I teach Pigeon Pose, I always give this as an alternative to my students. To do Deer Pose you bend both your front and back leg, resting your sits bones firmly on the ground. Sit up tall, pressing your hands lightly into your mat to help you lift a little taller.
Advanced Pigeon Pose
King Pigeon is the advanced version of Pigeon Pose. Using one or both hands extended over your head you hold onto your bent back leg.
One trick I have for doing this pose for the first time is to use a sock. If you are wearing socks, you can pull on the sock and lengthen the amount of space you have to flip the grip of your arm.
The first time I did King Pigeon successfully was using this sock trick. After that one time, my body knew the motion and I didn’t need the sock anymore.
The following video does a great job of explaining how to get into King Pigeon. Flipping your grip can be very confusing if you have never done it before, but she does a great job of explaining how to do this.
If you are looking for other great hip openers, check out Mandukasana Yoga Pose: An Amazing Hip Opener. This is a pose I did all the time as a girl in my ballet classes and still love it. Pigeon Pose and Mandukasana are both great hip openers.