The pigeon pose is a deceptively difficult yoga asana, known by some as the king of the hip openers. It is one that I have done on occasion, and only now, since researching a little more, have realised I was getting it entirely wrong and missing the whole point.
I am a self confessed yoga-dabbler. Performing perfectly has not been on my to-do list, I simply wanted to stretch out my body, believing that I would gradually improve and before long, look like the flexible yogis in the photos I was using for instruction.
But being a woman who suffers from extreme curiosity, it was only a matter of time before I realised that my attempts at yoga practice were not going to be of much benefit and worse, could actually be doing more harm than good.
Yoga is a different. You can’t perform it half-heartedly and expect to reap the rewards that are claimed so frequently. Life changing? Holistic? It depends on how seriously you take it.
And yet, it isn’t really so serious. I guess it is better to say, it depends on how aware you are of what you are actually doing. Aerobics, resistance training and many of the other forms of exercise seem to be easier if you disengage your mind, switch off the inner commentary that is screaming that you need a break, and just go through the motions. But not yoga.
It doesn’t really look like a workout from the outside, but anyone who has tried it will know the sheer strength and stamina required to hold even the simplest looking poses. In fact, yoga is far more than a workout. It is multifaceted, and the more conscious you are of the other arms of the discipline, the deeper you will go down the rabbit hole.
The pigeon pose can be intense for many reasons. Of course physically it can be a challenge to open up the hip area, but it is more than that. The pigeon pose shifts energy that is centred in the lower two chakras.
The root and the sacral are both home to many intense feelings and emotions. This is where deep rooted fears connected to safety and belonging are held. The very deepest of worries, surrounding survival can also be found in this energy centre. Intimacy and trust issues from relationships with our parents, family and lovers are also contained in these chakras.
For this reason, people can often feel anxious when they are in pigeon pose. It is not unusual for tears to flow as these deep emotions are released and prana (a universal energy which flows in currents in and around the body) is set free. Pigeon pose can therefore release built up stress, trauma, fear, and anxiety.
Yoga can affect people on many levels; physical, internal and emotional are just three. Pigeon pose is notorious for bringing up painful feelings and this is why people often love to hate it.
In Sanskrit, kapota means “pigeon,” and asana means “pose.” So kapotasana, can be translated literally to ‘a posture mimicking a pigeon’. Although, there are other theories:
Although people tend to think of kapotasana as merely a bird-shaped asana, it is actually named after a great master, Kapota, whose yogic accomplishments are documented in scriptures such as the Mahabharata and the Kalika Purana. ~ Yoga International
As well as being emotionally intense, this pose can be a challenge to perform accurately, yet the benefits of doing so are great. It opens the hip flexors and strengthens the pelvis.
It can be difficult to master thanks to our often sedentary lifestyle. Sitting behind a desk all day can cause the hip area to seize up. Additionally, activities such as walking, running and cycling, while building strength in the hips, do little for flexibility and can actually cause the hips to become tighter.
The hip flexors and quadraceps are tight in much of the adult population in the Western World, coupling this with typical weak abdominal muscles provides an equation for a challenging pigeon. The trick is to take it slowly, really thinking about what the asana is trying to do for the body.
Understanding that this pose is aiming to mobilise the pelvis and open the hips will hopefully show you that over-compensating for lack of mobility by raising the upper torso is counter productive. Mindfulness is necessary to really notice what is happening in the physical body, to enable the deeper benefits to occur.
Pigeon pose is great for your physical wellbeing, allowing your hips to become agile, through rotation, flexion, and extension. Your hips are a complex cluster of strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which are at the very centre of your mobilty. This pose specifically works on your hip rotators (buttocks) and hip flexors (long muscles down the front of your thighs and pelvis).
It can additionally provide physical relief from sciatic and back pain, help with urinary problems, stimulate the internal organs and improve your posture and alignment. It stretches the glutes and lengthens the back muscles, while releasing negative energy.
While some yoga specialists claim that this pose can be beneficial to those who have had hip replacements, it would be wise to seek advice if you have had recent hip or knee surgery, or if you suffer from severe sciatic, hip, knee or lower back pain before trying the pigeon pose.
There is a real risk that the following will seem nonsensical unless you can see or visualise the asana in action. So please, take a moment to watch this fantastic demonstration by Hope Zvara of the pigeon pose before reading the description below.
Hope explains thoroughly how to perform the asana, including how to avoid typical mintakes that are made.
It is possible to take the pigeon pose further and this can be done through a number of variations.
Whichever variation you choose must be finished with a gentle forward bend stretch the back and release any tension. Childs pose could be a good choice here.
The important thing is to have patience with yourself as you practice. Persistant practice will pay dividends in many ways.
What are your thoughts? Are you a dedicated yogi? Or considering beginning yoga? We would love to hear from you.
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