Pigeon is a great way to stretch the outside of the hip. However, traditional pigeon pose on the mat puts a lot of your body weight on your hip and knee. It can be hard to get into the pose if you’re not very flexible and challenging to stay there because of discomfort for a variety of anatomical reasons.
Chair pigeon provides an excellent alternative.
Popular activities like yoga, running and cycling really challenge our glutes, and that’s great, but we don’t always take the time to stretch them. Stretching using poses like pigeon and reclined twisting can really help us ensure this vital part of our bodies stays flexible and mobile – as well as strong. Plus, my students with hip replacements tell me that chair pigeon helps them stretch areas that are often tight and uncomfortable.
To set up:
1. Start in mountain pose at the chair. Come toward the edge of your seat so that your feet are making good contact with the floor, but you still feel supported by the chair under your sitz bones. Extend the spine.
2. Bend and stack the right leg. Lift the right leg and rotate the foot so that the right ankle bone rests on top of your left thigh. Keep your right foot flexed throughout the pose.
3. Bring movement to the hip socket. If you have had little or no movement in your hip joint so far during your practice today, go ahead and warm it up a bit. I like to do this by placing my right hand on my knee and my left hand on my foot. Then I “rock the baby,” by lifting my foot a little off the thigh and rocking the leg back and forth or in circles. You can extend your left leg a little if it gets in the way. This gentle motion activates the synovial fluid in your hip joint. Perform this move for 5-10 breaths.
4. Move into the stretch. Place the right ankle back on the left thigh and then decide if you need more or less sensation in your stretch, which you should feel on the outside of your right hip. If you need to back off, do so by extending the left leg. If you need more, lengthen through your spine and then hinge at the hips to fold forward with the chest lifted. You’re brining your belly toward your thigh more so than rounding the nose toward knee. Stop when you feel good stretch sensation. Hold for 5-10 breaths, moving a little deeper if you lose the stretch sensation.
5. Repeat on the opposite side.