Yoga's pigeon pose is a love-hate posture for many practitioners. Those with open hips and easy external rotation will happily melt into pigeon pose and may even wonder what all the fuss is about. However, those who prefer internal rotation over external rotation, as well as individuals who frequently run, cycle, or sit (all of which tend to tighten the hip muscles), may find pigeon pose uncomfortable. Luckily, variations of the pose mean there is something for everyone.
Try these six pigeon pose variations to make the pose more accessible, interesting, and deep:
1. Classic Pigeon Pose: Start in downward facing dog, lift the right leg, and place the right knee behind the right hand. Adjust the right foot, parallel to the edge of the mat. Lower the left leg straight back and gently rotate the left hip forward and down to enter the pose. Place your palms or fingertips on the ground, lengthening the spine.
2. Supported Pigeon Pose: Place a yoga block, blanket, or folded mat under the elevated hip to provide support and ease any tightness.
3. Restorative Pigeon Pose: Begin in the classic pigeon pose and fold forward over the front leg. Rest your forehead on the mat or prop it up with a block or blanket. Extend your arms on the mat for an added stretch.
4. Twisted Pigeon Pose: Start in the classic pigeon pose with the right leg forward. Place the left hand in front of the right shin in the center of the mat. Rotate the trunk from the hips to the right, wrapping the right arm around the back for support. Lengthen the spine on an inhale and deepen the twist on an exhale.
5. Supine Pigeon Pose: Lie flat on your back. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh near the knee. Rotate the right thigh outward and bring both knees toward the chest. Thread your left arm through the gap between the legs and extend your right arm to the outside of the leg, clasping hands on the shin or back of the thigh. Rest your head and shoulders on the ground and relax into the pose.
6. One-Armed King Pigeon Pose: Begin in the traditional pigeon pose with the right leg forward and the left leg bent, toes pointing toward the spine. Extend one or both arms overhead, then bend elbows and reach back to grasp the foot. Gaze up at the sky. Whether you love it or hate it, don't give up on pigeon pose!
With so many beneficial variations, there is always something new to explore. Take care of your body, protecting your knees during pigeon's various changes. Let your hips open in their own time, and they will reward your patience. Happy pigeon-ing!