The pigeon pose is an effective hip opener that is used in many different yoga sequences. It is also a posture that can be more challenging than it looks and not feel appropriate for everyone to try immediately.
In this blog I’ll be guiding you on how to do the pigeon pose in yoga through a progressive step-by-step sequence. We’ll also explore tips on how you can start practicing the pigeon pose as a beginner and work on improving your pigeon pose over time.
If you’d like to jump straight into the practice along video you can use Irene’s 20 minute pigeon pose yoga sequence YouTube video.
How to Do the Pigeon Pose in a Yoga Sequence
(1) Reclined Bound Angle Pose
The reclined bound angle pose is a great way start to gently opening your hips while also relaxing your body and focusing in on your breath. You can stay here for anywhere between 2 – 5 minutes.
In case you feel a lot of discomfort you can experiment with placing cushions under the knees or building up gradually the amount of time you stay in the posture.
(2) Easy Pose with Forward Fold
The shape of your legs and hips in easy pose is very similar to that of the pigeon pose. By placing your arms a little in front of you and gently leaning forward you’ll be able to ease into the stretch in your outer hip.
Notice if the back of your hips start to lift up from the ground and resist that by grounding your palms in into the ground and pressing the back of your hips back and down.
After staying leaning forward for around 5 – 10 breaths on one side come slowly up with your torso. And then change sides with your opposite leg in front and folding back forward for another 5 – 10 breaths.
(3) Windshield Wipers
Bring your feet a bit wider than your hips and hands behind you. Gently start to rock your knees from side to side. Creating movement and mobility around your inner and outer hips as well as stretching the groin.
You can choose for yourself how fast you want to make this movement and focus on keeping your breath slow and steady throughout.
(4) Seated Pigeon Pose
In this seated pigeon pose you bring your front leg in the same position as easy pose and all your weight over onto that hip. You can then make an S shape with the legs so that your back leg is also bent with the inner knee grounding into the mat.
If it feels comfortable, you can bring your hands in front of you and lean your weight a little forward. Pause in the posture and breath in and out slowly for at least 5 breaths. Then carefully come out and change to the opposite side.
This seated pigeon pose is a great preparation for the full pigeon pose and can also be used for beginners or those with pain as an alternative pose.
(5) Happy Baby Pose
The happy baby pose is another helpful posture to help open your hips. Come to lie on your back and bring your knees out a little wider than your torso. From here reach your feet up towards the ceiling and hold either your feet, ankles or legs—depending on what is accessible for you to reach.
You’re working on bringing your feet parallel to your knees, but if this isn’t available for you, feel free to instead have the knees a bit wider and feet a bit more in.
You can either stay for 5 – 10 breaths with the body still in the middle and back grounding to your mat, or you could rock a little from side to side.
(6) Reclined Pigeon Pose
The reclined pigeon pose is also a helpful preparation for the pigeon pose and variation to use if the pigeon pose isn’t comfortable. You can start with both feet on the floor and place the outside of one foot over the thigh of the opposite leg.
Flex the foot to activate the leg and hip, especially if you do have any knee pain. You can then draw the thigh into your chest and pause here a few breaths.
You might want to experiment when in the pose with rocking from side to side. And then pause in the place where you feel most stretch in the outer hip, IT band and glutes.
(7) Low Lunge Pose
Practicing the low lunge pose is really useful before the pigeon pose to help stretch your hip flexors at the front of your hip. You can come to your hands and knees, step one foot forward, and come up with your upper body.
Hands could first come to your hips and you can see how it feels to drop your hips a little forward while you ground through your hips. If the stretch feels too intense you could try bringing your front foot closer to your back knees. While if you feel very little you could experiment with stepping your front foot further forward.
Pause for anywhere from 5 – 20 breaths and then change to the opposite side.
(8) Pigeon Pose
Finally we’re coming to the pigeon pose itself. You can start on your hands and knees and bring one knee to wrist of the same hand and start to extend your back leg out behind you. You can stay here anywhere from 5 – 20 breaths and then come to the opposite side.
You can experiment by placing the support of a bolster, cushion or yoga block under your hip if it feels too intense without. You can also try bringing your front foot closer to the opposite hip (vs. parallel with the knee) to ease off the stretch.
If you do experience pain and the posture doesn’t feel appropriate right now please listen to your body and skip it for now! See the other tips I’ve shared below of how you can use the rest of this sequence to build up gradually and still work on the main principles of the pigeon pose.
(9) Relaxation in Savasana
After all of these hip openers building up to the pigeon pose it’s time for some relaxation! Take your time to come and lie on your back, let your body relax into the ground and close the eyes. Release control from your breath and focus on watching your natural breath.
You can stay here for approximately 1 – 10 minutes.
Can’t Do the Pigeon Pose? Tips for Beginners
The pigeon pose can be challenging for beginners and longer term practitioners that have tight hips or knee pain. If you’re having discomfort and pain when you’re attempting the pigeon pose it’s best if you start by practicing some of the alternative modifications for the pigeon pose first.
You could start with the same sequence shared above that progresses towards the pigeon pose that focuses on stretching your IT band, glutes, outer hip, hip flexors and inner thighs.
Then depending on how it feels you could try replacing the pigeon pose itself either with a supported version sitting on a bolster or yoga block, or instead doing the seated or reclined pigeon once more that we do earlier in the sequence.
This way you’ll still get all the benefits of stretching the muscles around the hip that come from doing the pigeon pose but without any lower back, knee or hip pain.
How to Improve Your Pigeon Pose
One of the best ways to improve your pigeon pose is to practice the preparation postures and pigeon pose itself regularly. The more often and consistent you are with the practice the sooner you’ll start to notice that the posture becomes more familiar and comfortable.
If you can aim for practicing the yoga poses in the pigeon pose family around three times a week. But if you can only manage one or two times a week consistently that will still help you notice more improvements than not practicing the pigeon pose frequently.
Since the majority of us already struggle to find time to fit everything we want and need to do into our days, you might choose to try out a 5 minute evening yoga routine focused on a couple of gentle hip openers like the pigeon pose.
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