How to Do Pigeon Pose

Stretch Your Hips With Correct Form

Pigeon pose
Ben Goldstein

There are three primary versions of pigeon pose, each building upon the one before. This explainer will show the first stage. The next is mermaid pose and the full pose is one-legged king pigeon. Expect to spend some time getting comfortable in each pose before moving to the next step.

There are a few different ways to approach this first version of the pigeon. One of the simplest is from downward facing dog, so we'll begin there. You can follow the same directions starting from your hands and knees position if you prefer.

This pose specifically works as a hip opener and forward bend, stretching your thighs, groin, back, piriformis and psoas.

Instructions

Master your pigeon pose with this step-by-step guide. 

  1. From downward facing dog, bring the right leg up into a down dog split.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of placing your foot down as you would for a lunge, bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand. The right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility.
  3. Release your left knee to your mat. Your left leg should be flat on the floor. Take a look backward and make sure that your left foot is pointing straight back.
  4. Square your hips towards the front of your mat.
  5. Take padding (a folded blanket works well) under the right side of your hip as necessary to make the pose more comfortable.

Options

You can tailor the pigeon pose to best fit your body by following these strategies. Work on getting a deeper stretch or keep it more modest—whatever works best for your body. 

  1. Bring your torso down into a forward bend over your right leg.
  2. Let the weight of your body rest on your right leg. Place your forehead on the floor.
  3. Continue squaring your hips and breathing into any tightness.
  4. Come back up, bringing your hands in line with your hips.
  5. Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand.
  6. Draw your foot towards your butt, stretching your left quad.
  7. Square your shoulders to the front of the room.
  8. Release your left foot, curl your left toes under and step back into a downward facing dog.
  9. Repeat Rajakapotasana pose on the other side.

Beginners Tips

To make this more comfortable (and more effective) for a beginner, you can take a few extra steps and precautions. 

  1. Be sure to take adequate padding under the right side of the butt. If necessary, use several blankets or a block. It's important to evenly distribute your weight between both hips and keep them square toward the ground.
  2. If the forward bend is difficult, use a block under your forearms and/or under your forehead. Try to create a support system of props that allows you to relax in the forward bend.
  3. If the pigeon pose just doesn't work for you, eye of the needle is a good substitute.

Advanced Tips

If you're more flexible and want to deepen the stretch, follow these tips. 

  1. Start to bring your right shin more parallel to the front of the mat.
  2. Move on to mermaid pose or the full version of the pigeon.
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