May: Pigeon/King Pigeon

This month our focus is going to be on hip openers and what better way to open the hips than in pigeon pose? pigeon pose can also be referred to as sleeping swan in some classes but the goal is still the same; open those hips! This pose is great for stretching out the hips after a long day of sitting at a computer or after a run or a bike ride. If your hips need a warm up before getting into pigeon or if pigeon is just not accessible to you right away there are many poses that can help: wind removing pose, thread the needle, candy cane pose as well as lizard pose or any type of low lunge. There are also a lot of places to go from pigeon pose as it prepares you for backbends and stretches and strengthens your adductors.

Here are some steps to getting into pigeon pose:

  1. Start in downward facing dog. Lift one leg into the air behind you and then sweep it forward between your hands with your knee touching one hand and your foot touching the other.
  2. You want to eventually get your shin parallel to the front of your mat for a deeper stretch but that can take time so start with your leg at whatever angle works best for your body.
  3. Straighten your other leg behind you and sit on the floor. The back of your top foot should be resting on the floor.
  4. If your bum  on the side of your front foot isn’t touching the ground you can place a block or a blanket underneath it for support.
  5. Place your hands on either side of your hips and stretch up as you inhale to elongate your spine.
  6. Slowly move your hands forward and lay your body over top of your front leg keeping your weight equally distributed on both hips. If you can’t get your body all the way down, you can place a block under your forehead to keep it supported or lay over a bolster.
  7. Breathe deeply and stretch your arms forward to gain as much length in the spine as possible.
  8. Don’t forget to do both sides!

If you feel comfortable in your pigeon pose you can also move on to mermaid pose. From sitting up in your pigeon you can bend your back leg up and hook your foot in your elbow crease giving your quad a good stretch as well as opening your shoulders. If you wish to hook your opposite arm over your head to clasp hands, you can do so. If you can’t quite reach your foot, grab a strap and hook it around the top of your foot. If your back and hips are feeling good and you want to try king pigeon you can flip your grip on your foot and try to touch your toes to your head! The most advanced version of this posture is the arm balance flying pigeon.

If you are feeling confident you can try these steps to getting into it:

  1. After you have warmed up your hips and shoulders, Start standing in mountain pose. Lift one leg and hook your ankle over the top of your knee and flex your foot.
  2. Slowly bend your standing knee and lean forward placing your palms on the floor in front of you. They should be placed shoulder width apart and your fingers should be spread wide gripping the floor.
  3. Hook the top of your top foot around your corresponding elbow and place the knee of the same leg as far up on the arm as you can as you lean forward onto the ball of your standing foot.
  4. Bend your elbows back but keeping them squeezed in towards your body. If your elbows wing out, you can wrap a strap around them to keep them in.
  5. Look between your hands and continue to lean forward using your elbows to hold up your leg.
  6. Begin to extend your standing leg all the way back behind you until you are lifting it in the air, engaging your core and still breathing.
  7. Hold for a few breaths and then gently place your back foot back down on the floor to come out.

There are so many amazing variations to this pose and many accessible ways to get into the using props. Always stay patient and ask your instructor for help if you are unsure.