For me, Pigeon pose has always bordered on the line of being uncomfortable. At first, settling into the position brings a satisfying stretch, but it's quickly overwhelmed by the feeling of tightness in my hips and achy tension in my shoulders.
Ironically, I've always seen this pose listed in relaxing and restorative sequences, but all I've ever felt was frustrated. I decided to reach out to YogaToday certified yoga instructor Adi Amar for advice on how to make Pigeon pose feel better.
Before getting into Amar's tips, it's important to know that not everyone responds to modifications or corrections the same way; yoga is personal. You also should never experience pain, so be sure to listen to your body's signals.
"I just want to emphasize that we can't fit everyone into the same box, and therefore different things are needed for different people, but there are a few things that practitioners can consider when practicing Pigeon," Amar said.
For starters, Pigeon shouldn't be the first pose you get into during your practice.
"Pigeon is a deep pose, and for most people, [it] requires warming up the hips and legs before experiencing the pose," Amar said. "Standing postures and lunges are a great way to prepare the hips for pigeon, as well as reclining Figure Four pose."
As for stiffness in the hips during Pigeon, Amar said it's quite common ‚ and it can be caused by both being strong in the area or from weakness and a lack of range of motion in the hip joint.
If you do experience this tightness in the hips, or if they are not in contact with the floor, one of Amar's tips is to elevate your hips with blankets or bolsters. "Support will help the hips to let go," Amar said.
Leaving the back leg bent and leaning toward the outer line of the front leg is also a helpful tip for hip tightness. "This is more like a Svastikasana posture. Resistance stretching is also very helpful," Amar said.
To further increase your overall comfort during Pigeon, she also recommended paying close attention to the knee joint while folding into the position. "This can put a lot of strain on the meniscus of the knee. Arranging the shin and thigh to 90 degrees can circumvent pinching the knee." Amar added that flexing the foot can take pressure out of the knees, too.
Elevating the hips under a folded blanket was the tip I personally found most helpful. The stretch I felt during the pose was finally way more soothing than it was irritating.
For shoulder tension during Pigeon, Amar recommended checking in with the area and continuously reminding yourself to release the shoulders with your exhale. "You can also place a bolster under your chest or a block under your head to facilitate a calming and relaxation response," she said.
Being more conscious of this area, combined with elevating my hips, actually allowed me to lower my upper body toward the floor without wincing - for once.
To brush up on how to perform Pigeon, check out this detailed step-by-step explainer.