For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
Ever try a yoga pose and feel like your body just doesn’t make that shape? Erin Motz (a.k.a. the Bad Yogi) has three ideas to help you rock Pigeon Pose.
This common hip opener is supposed to feel good. But Bad Yogi Erin Motz says if all you feel is awkward, the magic is in the modifications.
This passive variation of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), commonly called “Pigeon” can be a tricky pose to practice. And I suppose that’s why we see it executed improperly so often.
I totally understand why. It’s awkward! It’s asymmetrical, which tends to feel unnatural. So how can yogis find a sense of “ease” in a posturee that doesn’t seem to have a neutral point? The magic is in the modifications. Modify and anything is possible.
Modification 1: The Z-Sit
This is not technically Pigeon, but it’s a super option for people, who are extremely restricted and uncomfortable in the traditional pose. If your hips are hovering a foot above the ground in the regular version and there’s pain where there shouldn’t be, try this instead. Sitting comfortably, bring the front (left in the photo) knee as close to 90 degrees as your body allows. Find the amount of external rotation you’re comfortable with. If your foot inches closer to the groin, that’s OK too. For the full pose, you would extend the right leg all the way back. Here, simply open the right leg to 90 degrees behind you. This allows some opening in the hips (similar to Pigeon) but without the wobbly balancing act or pressure in the front knee.
In your Z-Sit, you can stay upright or lean forward. Begin to press the back hip (the one with the leg behind) forward to stretch the front of it and continue to externally rotate the front hip open. As you get more comfortable here, you can work on straightening the back leg and squaring the hips toward the top of your mat.
See also 9 Poses Your Hips Need Now
Modification 2: Bring the Floor to You
You’ll probably need this modification somewhere between the Z-sit and full pose. Quite honestly, there are still times when Pigeon isn’t perfectly accessible to me and I love this modification. When the hips aren’t quite warm enough to sit on the floor comfortably, it’s far better for you to bring the floor up to them with a bolster, blanket, or pillow. Just make sure you whole upper leg from the hip to the knee is supported so you don’t put unnecessary pressure on the joint. Square your hips to the front of your mat and kick the back foot into the floor with the toes facing down. Then let go. This version lets you relax into the pose and reap all the benefits without struggling to stay balanced on your hands and hold yourself up away from the floor.
Modification 3: Add a Strap
Once you’re on your bolster or pillow, you may feel 100% more confident and comfortable in this pose. It’s pretty common! Maybe you’re even ready to try the next step. If so, keeping the front knee and hip supported and without arching or rounding your back, you can add a little flair to your pose by taking a light bind with a strap around the back foot. It’ll add some activity to the quads and the hip flexors without compromising the alignment of the rest of the body.
About Erin Motz
Listen, I’m not your traditional yogi: I’m the carnivorous, red wine, and French cheese-loving type and I teach vinyasa flow. My aim is to keep my classes fun and accessible, both in the studio and online. You won’t hear much Sanskrit, I totally forgive you if you don’t know your asana from your elbow, and I firmly believe that yoga is for everyone, from the kale-loving vegan to the prize-winning deer hunter. I may be a Bad Yogi, but if I’m being totally honest, teaching yoga has been one of my greatest pleasures; I practice to feed my teaching, but I teach to feed my life.