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  • Writer's pictureshannonkyeager

3 Ways To Do Pigeon Pose for Tight Hips

Release tension in your hips by finding a pain-free version of pigeon pose using different variations and supportive props.



If you sit at a desk, drive in a car, spend time at a gym, or are a passionate cyclist or runner, you may be experiencing tight hips.


In fact, sitting for long periods of time is one of the most common causes of tight hips. The iliopsoas, which consists of the psoas and iliacus muscle, become shortened while sitting, leading to tight hip flexors. Over time, tight hip flexors can also lead to poor posture, lower back pain, limited mobility and more.


I have a corporate job and a love of weightlifting and spin classes. The combination of these activities makes my hips tight, especially if I don’t take the time to stretch them. Yoga has helped me lengthen my hip flexors and release tension, allowing my body to relax and even let go of difficult emotions. If you’ve ever shed a tear in the middle of a yoga class, you are not alone. Hip opening allows us to release emotions like anxiety, fear and grief that may have been stored in the hips. Letting go of those emotions can help make space for new experiences.


Pigeon pose is commonly used in yoga classes to stretch the hips. However, it can be uncomfortable and even painful without using props or aligning your body. I put together a video with three variations of pigeon pose to help you find the shape that’s right for you. Before trying pigeon pose, I recommend warming up with sun salutations (surya namaskars) or spending a few rounds of breath in a bound angle pose (baddha konasana), happy baby (ananda balasana) and low lunge (anjaneyasana). Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.



Below is a step-by-step guide of each pigeon pose variation demonstrated in the video.


1. Half Pigeon/Sleeping Pigeon With Blocks (Ardha Kapotasana)

  • Begin on all fours in a table top position (bharmanasana) with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees

  • Move your right knee toward your right wrist

  • Lay the lower part of your leg on the mat with your right heel somewhere in front of your left hip. Find a comfortable position between a 45 degree and 90 degree angle

  • Extend your left leg straight back behind you. Rest the top of your foot on the mat

  • Slide a block underneath your right sitting bone

  • Inhale, lengthen your spine and lift up from your chest

  • Exhale and walk your hands forward any amount

  • Slide a block underneath your forehead on the height that feels most supportive

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Plant your palms on the mat and lift your chest up

  • Remove the blocks and set them out of the way

  • Move your front leg back and return to table top (bharmanasana)

  • Repeat on the second side


2. Half Pigeon/Sleeping Pigeon Without Blocks (Ardha Kapotasana)

  • Begin in downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) by planting your palms on the mat, spreading your fingers wide, tucking your toes, lifting your hips toward the ceiling and lengthening your spine

  • Lift your right leg up and keep your hips square

  • Bend your right knee, shift forward and move your right knee toward your right wrist

  • Lay the lower part of your leg on the mat with your right heel somewhere in front of your left hip. Find a comfortable position between a 45 degree and 90 degree angle

  • Extend your left leg straight back behind you. Rest the top of your foot on the mat

  • Inhale, lengthen your spine and lift up from your chest

  • Exhale and walk your hands forward. You can rest on your forearms or lay your forehead on the mat

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Plant your palms on the mat and lift your chest up

  • Move your front leg back and return to downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)

  • Repeat on the second side


3. Reclined Pigeon/Figure 4 (Supta Kapotasana)

  • Lay on your back

  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart

  • Cross your right leg over your left leg

  • Flex your right foot to protect your knee

  • If you want to deepen the stretch, pick your left foot up off the mat and thread your arms through the center of the “4” shape. Clasp your hands around the back of your left thigh or the front of your left shin

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Release the clasp of your hands and uncross your legs

  • Repeat on the left side


Additionally, here are some tips for pigeon pose:

  • Move slowly and mindfully. If you experience sharp pain, safely move out of the pose

  • Avoid twisting or torquing the knee joint

  • If you have arthritis or previous hip or knee injuries, consult a doctor before stretching the area

  • Do a 90-90 stretch instead of pigeon for hip mobility - try this video from Caroline Jordan

  • If you want a deeper stretch in the upper back and shoulders, you can grab hold of your back leg in pigeon pose

  • Strengthening the hips, glutes and core can also help to prevent future injuries


I hope these variations help you release tension, create space and feel good! Share which version was your favorite by leaving me a comment below.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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