Pose of the Month: Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose releases the stress and tension in your hips.
Everyone can benefit from the hip opener known as pigeon pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. Stress and tension can build up in the hips and create tightness. Practicing pigeon can make for supple, more flexible hips. Sometimes this pose will take your breath away with its depth, but stick with it and you'll notice the immediate improvement.

How to: Pigeon Pose

 

  • Start on all fours in a squared table pose.
  • Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your right knee at two o'clock.
  • Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow.
  • Keep your hips square to the floor. If your hips are not square, there will be unnecessary force on your back, and you won't be able to open the hips to their fullest.
  • If you're not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward--little by little--toward your left hand. With practice, bring your foot parallel with the front edge of your mat
  • Your right thigh should have an external rotation, and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. This keeps pressure off the knee cap.
  • Depending on how you feel, you will be upright on your hands while sinking the hips forward and down. Level two will rest on their forearms, and level three will rest the chest on the floor with the arms fully extended in front of you.
  • To get full release in the hips, breathe and release the belly. Stay in this position anywhere from 10 breaths to five minutes.
Benefits of Pigeon Pose

When done properly and consistently, pigeon pose can:

 

  • Stimulate the internal organs
  • Stretch deep glutes
  • Stretch groins and psoas (a long muscle on the side of your vertebral column and pelvis)
  • Relieve impinged piriformis and alleviate sciatic pain
  • Help with urinary disorders
For the lay person or yogi, pigeon pose elongates the back, opens the hips, groin, hamstrings, and relieves pressure on the lower back and sciatica. Your hips are a keystone to your body and its proper functioning. Open hips improve your posture, alignment and overall flexibility. Open hips also release the negative feelings and energy from your system since stress, tension and anxiety are often stored there.

It is a primal response to tighten up when under excessive stress or trauma. This tension releases easily with pigeon pose. When I ask students in my class to hold this pose for a length of time, many will feel a rush of released emotion and actually cry.

For the athlete, this pose is critical to overall health, speed and agility. Open hips relieve the stress transferred to the knees when hips are tight. Less knee strain means a greater range of motion for the pivot sports such as tennis, basketball or soccer, reducing risk to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Clear hips also give the back a full range of motion. This helps athletes avoid lower back strains that often plague them. Flexible and aligned hips are essential for an athletes' best performance.

Always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before you start a yoga practice. The few instances when you should avoid this pose entirely are if you have:

 

  • A sacroiliac or back injury
  • An ankle injury
  • Certain knee injuries
  • Extreme tightness in the hips
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.
Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen's unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, nutrition and homeopathy, provide her clients, class participants and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, and the Pace University baseball team; as well as many youth teams in a variety of sports. Visit her website at www.yogawithgwen.com

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