How to Do a Pigeon Yoga Pose

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 25, 2022
5 min read

Yoga is a great way to improve your health and wellbeing, and there are many different types of yoga

If you're new to yoga, it's essential to find some basic positions to start. The pigeon yoga pose (aka Rajakapotasana) is suitable for beginners since it helps to open up the hips and stretch the legs. Plus, it doesn't require any complex maneuvering. 

There are different modifications, allowing you to find the best one for your capabilities and preferences.

The pigeon yoga pose requires you to get into a low lunge position with your right leg forward and left leg back. 

From there, you lower your body so that your right shin is parallel to the mat. Your left leg should be extended straight behind you, with the top of your foot resting on the mat.

This posture targets your glutes, hips, and groin. The pigeon pose can help relieve tension in these areas. It can also help improve your range of motion. If you have tight hips, this stretch can be particularly beneficial.

You only need a yoga mat to do the pigeon pose. However, you may want to place a blanket under your right knee for support if you have knee problems.

The pigeon pose works the muscles of the groin, back, thigh, and piriformis. It also works the psoas muscle, which is a deep hip flexor.

Psoas Muscle

The psoas muscle is vital for posture and stabilizing the spine. The muscle is present in the lower lumbar region of your spine. It extends from the pelvis to the femur.

It flexes the hip joint and lifts your upper leg towards your body. This muscle is involved in walking. The pigeon yoga pose stretches the psoas muscle, strengthening it.

Piriformis Muscle

The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located deep in the buttocks. It connects the lower spine to the upper thigh bone (femur) and helps rotate your hip. It assists in hip rotation. 

This muscle is also involved in turning the leg and moving the foot outward. While in some people, the sciatic nerve runs diagonally through the piriformis muscles, the muscle typically runs vertically above the sciatic nerve.

The most common version of the pigeon yoga pose is the classic pigeon. However, once you've mastered the classic pose, you can try variations like the double pigeon, the king pigeon, and the one-legged king pigeon.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms should be on the side of your body.
  • Adopt the standing forward bend. To do this, hinge at your hips and bring your torso toward your legs. Keep your spine straight as you fold forward.
  • Inhale and lunge with your right leg forward, keeping your left leg straight behind you. Lower your right knee toward the ground. Try to keep your left heel lifted.
  • Exhale and put the exterior side of your right shin on the mat. Your right heel should be close to your left hip.
  • Place your left knee on the mat. Your left foot should face the ceiling.
  • Place your palms on the mat in front of you. If it's difficult to keep your palms on the mat, you can place them on your shins.
  • Then, elongate your spine and lift your chest. Look forward, keeping your gaze soft.
  • Hold the position for a minute or 30 seconds, whichever is comfortable. Breathe deeply.
  • To come out of the pigeon pose, exhale and bring your right leg back. Place both feet on the ground and go into the standing forward bend. Inhale as you bring your torso up.

Besides the classic pigeon pose, there are several variations you can perform to target different areas or muscle groups.

One of them is the resting pigeon pose. In this variation, you start in the traditional pigeon pose but lower your torso closer to the ground and rest your forehead on the mat. It's a great way to relax the hips and low back.

You can also try the one-legged pigeon pose, a more advanced variation. In this pose, you bring one leg in front and place the other leg behind you, similar to the classic pigeon pose. 

However, instead of keeping both legs at a 90-degree angle, you bring the back leg closer to your body so that it's at a 45-degree angle.

If you want a challenge, try the king pigeon pose. In this variation, you start in the classic pigeon pose. Then, you place your hands on the ground in front of you and raise your torso off the ground. This helps strengthen the core and upper body.

Since the pigeon pose targets the hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis muscles, it helps improve the range of motion in the hips. It may also strengthen the muscles that support the hips and lower back. 

Pigeon pose may also help relieve lower back pain by stretching the muscles and tendons around the spine. It can also help ease sciatic pain by stretching the piriformis muscle.

Although there are many pigeon yoga pose benefits, there are a few mistakes that you should avoid to maximize those benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

Not Warming Up First

Pigeon is a deep hip opener. If your hips are tight, you could be at risk for injury if you don't warm up first. Make sure to do gentle hip openers and stretches before attempting the pigeon pose.

Wrong Hip Posture

Pigeon pose for beginners can be tricky since keeping the hips in a square position is difficult. You should feel a stretch in your front hip, but if you're feeling pain in your back hip, you must adjust your posture.

Unparalleled Shin

Your shin should be parallel to the front of your mat when in the pigeon pose. If your shin is not parallel, you will feel the tension in your knee or ankle.

Keep a soft towel under your knee and thigh if the pressure hurts your knees. It will help protect your knees.