EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA: PIGEON POSE

Pigeon pose is a pose that I do every day. If you are someone who spends a lot of time sitting during the day, I would recommend that you do this pose daily as well! When we spend prolonged periods of time seated, our hips can become tight, and this can cause problems like low back pain, hip pain and sciatica. This pose can help us to counter these effects.

Benefits of Pigeon Pose:

  • stretches hip flexors, rotators and lower back
  • can help alleviate sciatica pain
  • relieves pain associated with menstruation
  • benefits svadhisthana chakra (the sacral chakra)
  • with the forehead resting on a prop or on the ground, it can be very soothing and grounding for the nervous system

People seem to either love or hate pigeon pose, but I think that with proper support, we can all enjoy this hip opener. And there are lots of variations to choose from!

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TRADITIONAL VARIATION

Come onto your hands and knees (tabletop position). Bend your left knee and slide it up between your hands so that your left foot is in front of your right hip. Extend the right leg behind you and sink into your hips. Keep the hips even. If you notice that you're falling over to the left side, try one of the following modifications. You can stay upright, or you can deepen the stretch by walking the hands forward. Rest your forehead on top of your forearms (or use props). If you start to notice that your breath is restricted, this can be a sign that you've gone too deep into the pose. You may need to back up and try one of the modification options. This is the time to "play your edge." Finding the space in the pose where you're experiencing sensation and challenge, but you can still breathe comfortably. Hold this pose for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. Keep in mind that it is normal for one side to feel different than the other, so you may need to add props to one side when the other doesn't need any props. Listen to your body!

A NOTE ON KNEE PAIN:

The front knee can easily become aggravated in this pose when the hip doesn’t want to externally rotate open enough to accommodate the bend in the knee.  This can happen simply because of the way a person’s hip joint is structured and isn’t necessarily a sign of inflexibility nor is it a sign that you should keep pushing. If you’re experiencing knee discomfort, please consider modifying this pose with props or trying one of the alternative poses. You’ll get the same benefits while keeping your knees happy.

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ADDING PROPS: Blanket or block under the hip of the bent leg

A common problem in pigeon pose is falling over toward one side. It's important to keep the hips even so that we're protecting the lower back in the stretch. To help you keep your hips square, you can add a block or a folded blanket under the hip of the bent leg. 

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ADDING PROPS: Block under the forehead or bolster under the upper body

For a restorative practice or evening practice, it's very soothing to be able to rest the head. For these kinds of practices, we don't want to overstretch the body. Adding a block under the forehead or a bolster under the upper body allows you to relax into the pose without experiencing excessive sensation in the hips.

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SUPINE VARIATION

For this option, you'll lie down on your back with your knees bent. Cross one ankle over your opposite knee. Keep the foot flexed to protect the knee. You may already be feeling a stretch. If so, stay right here. If you want to go deeper, you can interlace your hands behind your bottom knee and bring it in toward
your chest. This option eliminates the hip flexor stretch and may be more comfortable for yogis with lower back pain.

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SEATED CHAIR VARIATIONS

For this seated variation, you'll sit at the edge of your chair with the feet flat on the floor. Lift the left foot and place the outer edge of the foot on a block or you can cross the left ankle over the right knee. Keep the foot evenly flexed. Hold for ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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STANDING CHAIR VARIATION

This is a great option if getting up and down from the floor is difficult. To come into this variation, stand in front of your chair and grip the edges of the seat of the chair. Lift the left leg and place the bent knee on the seat of the chair with the left foot flexed. The right leg is straight and you're up on the toes as if you are in a lunge position. Keep the hips squared. Stack your arms on the back of the chair and let your forehead rest on top of your forearms. Take ten deep breaths, then practice on the opposite side. 

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ALTERNATIVE POSE OPTIONS

  • Deer Pose (Mrigasana)
  • Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
  • Firelog Pose (Agnistambhasana)

All of these hip openers offer a similar stretch in the outer hip, but eliminate the hip flexor stretch.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

 

VIPARITA KARANI: LEGS UP THE WALL POSE

This pose can be practiced at anytime of day. Because it is so grounding and restorative, it's especially good for those times when you're feeling "tired but wired." But it has many other benefits too:

  • calms an anxious mind
  • revives tired muscles
  • replenishes energy stores
  • balances blood pressure
  • soothes headaches
  • alleviates PMS symptoms
  • relieves insomnia
  • soothes the nervous system
  • can benefit patients with POTS (just make sure to exit slowly)
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TRADITIONAL VARIATION:

Be seated next to a wall with your left hip pressing into the wall. Begin to roll yourself onto your back and simultaneously swing your legs up the wall. You might need to do this quickly so you can get some momentum going. Once you've got your legs up the wall, make any adjustments so that your spine is straight and your hips are squared. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more stretch you will feel in the hamstrings. This pose is usually held for at least five minutes and up to thirty minutes. If it's your first time trying this pose, I would recommend starting with just ten deep breaths and increasing your duration slowly. This pose trains the circulatory system to balance blood pressure and blood circulation, so your body may need some time to get used to this. To come out of this pose, bend your knees into your chest and roll yourself over to the side. Press yourself up to sit very slowly. 

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VARIATION: FOLDED BLANKET OR BOLSTER UNDER SACRUM

Adding a folded blanket under your sacrum may lessen the intensity of the hamstring stretch and magnifies the pose's benefits by making it more of an inversion (head below the heart). You can add the blanket after you've gotten into position, or you can start sitting on top of it before you roll onto your back, whichever feels easier to you.

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VARIATION: KNEES BENT, FEET FLAT AGAINST THE WALL

Bending the knees and placing your feet flat against the wall will help if your hamstrings are tight. It also puts gentle pressure on your lower belly, massaging the internal organs. 

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VARIATION: YOGA STRAP AROUND THE THIGHS

Securing a yoga strap around the thighs eliminates any muscle engagement in this pose. With the strap, your muscles don't need to work to keep your legs together, so you can completely release into the pose.  

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VARIATION: LEGS ON CHAIR

You can use a chair instead of a wall for this pose. This completely eliminates the hamstring stretch and allows the legs to completely relax and surrender to gravity. 

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses. 

BALASANA: CHILD'S POSE

Not everybody likes child’s pose. For many people, child's pose is a favorite. It's restorative, restful and cozy, and it can relieve pain and anxiety within the space of a few breaths. But it isn't that way for everybody.

As a yoga teacher, I have seen many students struggle to get comfortable in child's pose. Most people see child's pose as an easy pose that anybody can do even if it's their first time on the mat, but the reality is that some bodies just don't like the traditional shape of child's pose. Some bodies just don't want to bend that way, and that is perfectly okay! 

We shouldn't have to modify our bodies in order to fit the shape of our yoga practice, but rather our yoga practice should be modified to fit the shape of our bodies. There is nothing wrong with you if you don't like child's pose! But because this pose comes with so many benefits, let's explore some ways to make this pose more accessible.

Named balasana in sanskrit, child's pose comes with many benefits, including:

  • calming and grounding the mind and body
  • soothing headaches
  • opening the hips
  • stretching the spine
  • relieving lower back pain
  • stretching the shoulders
  • massaging the internal organs
  • soothing menstrual cramps

You can still get all of these amazing benefits with the modified variations of child's pose below. 

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TRADITIONAL CHILD’S POSE

Come down onto your hands and knees. Bring the big toes to touch. Knees can be together or apart, depending on your comfort. Taking the knees wide does give more space for the belly to expand with breath.

Walk the hands forward, reaching the arms straight out in front of you and draping your upper body over your thighs. Let your forehead find the floor. Take a big breath in and exhale, completely relax your entire body. Stay here for ten deep breaths or up to three minutes. Supported variations can be held longer. 

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CHILD'S POSE WITH PROPS

Start by coming down onto your knees. If you'd like, you can also place a folded blanket or cushion under your knees and under your hips for extra padding. Take your knees wide. Big toes touch. Bring the bolster between your knees so you can drape your entire torso over the top. These props help to correct the most common problem I see in child’s pose: booty floating way up in the air. Once you’re settled in, turn your head to one side. You can rest here for up to ten minutes. Just make sure that you turn your head to the opposite side halfway through so your neck doesn't become stiff.

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CHILD'S POSE WITH EXTENDED LEGS

For this variation, you will need a bolster and a yoga block. Lie down on your belly on top of the bolster. Stretch your legs out behind you, and rest your forehead on the yoga block. The arms can be bent with elbows under shoulders or the arms can be extended. This option is great for people with knee pain or neck pain, and it still gives you all the benefits of traditional child's pose. You may rest here for as long as you'd like.

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CHILD'S POSE IN A CHAIR

If getting down to the floor is a no-go for you, you'll love this third modification! This option uses two chairs facing each other, a yoga bolster and a yoga block. Sometimes we just have to get a bit creative!

To come into the pose, be seated in a chair with the feet flat on the floor. If they don't reach, use blocks or books to bring the floor to you. Set your block on the chair in front of you and place one end of the bolster on top of the block and the other end between your knees. Make sure it's secure and then drape your upper body over the bolster. You can rest here for up to ten minutes. But again, make sure you turn your head the opposite direction halfway through so your neck doesn't become stiff. 

I hope this pose helps you feel relaxed and supported. You deserve it!

If you'd like to see how to set up and execute these poses, play the video below.

HOW DID IT GO?

If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress!