Hip openers…you either love them or you love to hate them! Although hip opening poses can feel so challenging for a lot of people, they can also be hugely satisfying, both for your body and also for your mind.
This forward folding variation of Pigeon Pose (eka pada rajakapotasana) is pretty intense yet very popular and is taught by many of our Go Yoga teachers in our Harrogate studio. The benefits of the pose are plentiful, and the effects can be truly liberating, providing that you understand just how to position your body and why.
Understanding pigeon pose
When learning more about the hips, it’s worth noting that we were not all created equal. Every pair of hips is unique and therefore Pigeon Pose will feel different for you than it will do for me, and so on. It is also important to consider that if you try to put your hips into a position that doesn’t necessarily come naturally, then your body will most probably compensate by moving another joint or limb into a different position to try and fix itself. Therefore, even for the most experienced of yoga practitioners, preparing to move into Pigeon Pose should be part of a well-thought-out process, as should checking and adjusting yourself, once in it. With regular practice, and as your hips begin to open, you will really begin to feel the benefits of a well-balanced Pigeon. You might also begin to notice more ease in your daily life as you sit, walk, cycle, stand or swim.
Moving into pigeon pose
During classes, you will likely move into Pigeon Pose from various different postures and positions, however, for the sake of keeping things simple, we will start in a table top.
1. Your table top position should be strong and grounding, with a neutral spine and fingers spread nice and wide underneath your shoulders.
2. With an inhale, draw your right knee forward, just towards the right of your right hand, so that your thigh bone and knee are directly in front of your hip socket. Your shin will most likely be on a diagonal and your right heel pointing toward your left front hip bone.
3. Gently turn your neck to the left to observe your back left leg. You should be on the top of the knee and the thigh with your foot lying flat and the big toe pointing towards the back of the room. The left leg should also be in line with its own hip socket.
4. Inhale and begin to draw your torso upright, moving your gaze to a point directly ahead of you. Draw some attention to the pelvis and notice if those knobbly bits on the front of the pelvis are pointing forward.
5. Finally, walk your hands forward and extend them as far forward as feels good to allow your neck and head to bow down towards your mat.
6. Use head support in the form of folded towels, if needed, as not to strain your neck. This can also often help to add a gentle pressure to the third eye to help you to focus on this point once in the pose.
7. Let your breath flow naturally for a count of ten inhales and ten exhales.
8. Gently walk your hands back in towards your body, aligning them underneath your shoulders as you bring the knees back into your starting table top position.
9. Repeat all of the above on your left side.
· Throughout this pose, try to keep your shoulders as relaxed as you can and not bunched up towards your ears.
· Pay a little attention to your abdomen, ensuring it is active with a focus on drawing the belly button upwards towards the spine.
· The outside of your left hip (back leg hip) should be moving forward, whilst at the same time feeling the hip of the front leg moving back.
· No frowning here! Keep the muscles in your face relaxed with a gentle smile. You know you want to.
· It is most common to experience some form of intense sensation in your left hip as your femur rotates outward in its socket. You may feel this in the fleshy part of your buttock or it might be running along the inner part of your thigh.