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As a deep stretch for the outer hip and iliotibial (IT band), Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is a useful pose for athletes with tight hips. But there are potential pitfalls, as well; when the hips are especially tight, the pose can be too intense and can strain the knee of the front leg. In a piece investigating Pigeon, we examined various approaches to modifying the pose by changing its relationship to gravity. Lately, I’ve been practicing and teaching the Pinwheel Pigeon a lot; it feels great for my hips without tweaking my knees. You should try it, too, and if you like it, include it in your regular practice in addition to or instead of the more common Pigeon Forward Fold.
To set up, you’ll fan your legs into a pinwheel shape. This is easy to do from Table Pose on your mat. Walk both knees toward the long right side of the mat, then sit on the outer left hip with your left thigh parallel to the short front side of the mat. Take the right leg back behind you, still bent at the knee, right shin parallel to the back of the mat. Your legs will be in a pinwheel shape.
To fold, take your left hand to the center of the mat and your right hand off the long right side of the mat. Fold over your left knee, moving your sternum toward your knee.
Prop up on your hands or forearms and settle in.
Stay for 5, 10, or 15 breaths, then repeat for the other side.