Namaste With Natalia: Half Pigeon
Your Monthly Yoga Pose
Eka Pada Kapotasana
November is here, and many of our thoughts turn toward turkey. For this month’s yoga pose, I would like to highlight another bird, the pigeon. Although this posture is commonly known as pigeon pose, it is also known as half pigeon or sleeping pigeon. Another variation with a bent back leg is also known as king pigeon, while a variation with both legs bent is oftentimes called “full” pigeon. For the purpose of this article, we will call the pose half pigeon.
Half pigeon is a very well-known hip opener in yoga. It is excellent to release the lower back and open stretch in the hip flexor. The pose works well for those of us who sit for long periods of time. However, it is a pose that you may love or you may truly dislike. There is rarely an in between. I personally began disliking the pose, then loving it, and I’m currently back on to disliking it.
Half pigeon is different for every body. Each body has different hip sockets and hip joint flexibility or rotation. In addition, some of us have a smooth head on our femur, and the greater trochanter allows for easy movement. Some of us (myself included) get stuck and stop due to the way nature created our bones. In my yogic journey, I have stretched and opened some of the muscles surrounding my pelvis, but the bones won’t allow for much else. (Hence my love/dislike relationship.)
Pigeon pose is a nice reminder that we are all unique.
- Begin in a down dog.
- Sweep the right leg high in the sky, leading with the heel.
- Bend the knee and bring the knee toward the center of the mat.
- Flex the right toes toward the shin and, keeping the right knee bent, determine to place the right foot somewhere between the back of the left palm and the pelvis.
- Untuck the back toes.
- Modify the pose by placing a block or bolster under the right thigh.
- Place a block or bolster in front of the right leg.
- Breathe and allow each exhale to melt your torso, shoulders, and head toward the front of the mat as well as naturally allowing the right knee to move toward the right edge of the mat.
- Stay in half pigeon for up to 25 breaths, continuing to release with each exhale.
- Switch sides.
According to Yoga Anatomy, this position is frequently used to “stretch” the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve. While sciatic pain exists, it is not necessarily useful to stretch the sciatic nerve, and the piriformis is not always responsible for sciatic pain. Although the asana often helps relieve the pain, it is more likely the mobilization of the hips, pelvis, and surrounding muscles that are responsible.