If you’ve mastered King Pigeon and are looking to mix it up, try these variations.
King Pigeon Pose is a more advanced, challenging posture that requires equal parts flexibility and stability. The pose requires you to remain aware, secure, and fluid in order to avoid injury. If you’re already familiar with this pose and have mastered it in its original form, you’re probably interested in trying some variations to freshen it up.
The King Pigeon Pose modifications below can help you reap its benefits in new ways, and move deeper into the stretch.
By Carrie Owerko
King Pigeon Pose with a Strap
From a kneeling position, step one foot forward and come into a deep lunging position. Squeeze the sides of your pelvis in toward your core and lift your lower abdominal region, so that you remain balanced in the pose. Bend you back leg and place the loop of a strap around your left foot. Hold the end of the belt in both hands. Press the top of your left foot into the floor and lift your arms upward. Take a few breaths here.
Begin to bend your back leg, but continue to resist that foot into the strap as you bend your arms, walk your hands down the strap, and draw the foot in toward your head. Take your time. Pause and observe your body breathing. Keep resisting your back foot into the strap, even as you pull it in. This is what we call in Iyengar Yoga an opposing, or double, action. This opposing action will help open and extend the front of your left hip.
When your hands come to your foot, or as close as is possible, inhale and lift up through your chest. As you exhale, take your head back. Stay in the pose for 10-30 seconds, as you maintain your balance and observe your body breathing as a stable and integrated whole.
Slowly release the strap as you come up and out of the pose. Repeat on the other side. Make sure to take a restorative pose, like Child’s Pose, to counter the actions of King Pigeon.
King Pigeon Pose at the Wall
Place the loop of the belt on your back foot, as you did above. Come to all fours and place your back shin up against a wall. Come to an upright position, stacking your shoulders over your hips.
Take hold of the end of the strap again and lift your arms upward. Take a few deep breaths. Press your back foot into the wall (as you pressed it into the strap in the last variation) to provide the resistance that will help move your pelvis forward and deeper into your lunge. Keep squeezing your hips in toward your core and lift your abdominal region.
Continuing those actions and crawl your hand down the strap. Pause and breath along the way. Crawl your hands down the strap until you find your foot or come a close as is possible. Inhale, and as you exhale press your foot into the wall, lift up through your chest and take your head back. Stay in the pose with steady breathing. Relax your tongue and jaw. Observe how this helps to release unnecessary tension in the whole body.
Come up and out of the pose slowly. Repeat on your other side. This variation can be even stronger than the first as the wall provides quite a lot of resistance for the foot and shin of the back leg. Counter with Child’s Pose.
King Pigeon Pose with a Chair
Kneel in front of a chair (against a wall). Place one ankle or lower leg against the front of the chair seat and step your other foot forward. Come into your lunge and take a few breaths.As you inhale, reach your arms up and back toward the wall and the upper part of the chair. Exhale and come back to your upright lunge. Repeat this movement several times. Keep your outer hips squeezing in, your lower abdominal area and the sides of your trunk uplifted as you do these movements. Observe the flow of your breath as you relax your tongue, eyes, and jaw.
Now reach your left arm backward, extending your arm from your shoulder as you eternally rotate your upper arm and turn your palm up toward the ceiling. Take a breath. Once you have positioned your hand on the chair, with your palm facing up, exhale and lift your elbow. Inhale and lift your chest; exhale as you take your head back and reach your opposite arm to the chair as well. If possible, walk your hands further down the chair, pausing to observe the movement of your breath. Maintain stability in your pelvic region as you inhale and lift upward though your sides. And then as you exhale, take your head back to, or toward, your back foot. Stay here for a few breaths. Observe your senses of perception and learn to keep them relaxed while you are in the pose.
Come up and out slowly. Repeat on your other side. Then take a counter pose.
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All images courtesy of Jeff Nelson.