Pigeon Pose is a delicious hip opener, however, it can be tremendously hard to see for yourself if you have correct alignment in any of the Pigeon pose variations. I suggest doing this pose in front of a mirror until your body has memorized how the correct hip alignment should feel.
The wrong alignment can over-stretch your ligaments in an unhealthy way and therefore destabilize your hips. It could cause you to tweak your low back or sacrum and put a lot of unnecessary stress on your knees.
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Here are a few of the most common misalignments in Pigeon pose, along with quick tips on how to fix them.
1. Dumping Over the Bent Leg
In Pigeon, it is very common that to decide it is important to bring our thighs all the way down to the mat. This is a misconception of ego and it causes the most hip injuries out of all the Pigeon Pose misalignments.
Your thighs do not need to touch the ground. It is more important that your hips both point forward like headlights on a train. This keeps your weight even on both sides so that you don’t over-stress the opening hip's exterior ligaments.
How to Fix It: If you find yourself leaning your weight over one leg with your hips pointing somewhere off to the other side, then put a block under the thigh of the bent leg.
Adjusting in this way may mean you cannot bring your forearms or chest down to the mat, and that is OK. You are now safely stretching the right parts in a healthy way, rather then tweaking an area that should remain strong.
2. Thighs Lifting
In King Pigeon, many of us become so focused on touching our toes to the back of our heads that we begin to lift the thigh of the bent knee up off the ground. This action takes the stretch clean out of the spinal muscles and shoulders and endangers our balance.
How to Fix It: You need to be able to enter and exit a deep stretch like this one slowly to keep your strength engaged and protect yourself from “pinging” down like an elastic band.
3. Lax Ankles
Not flexing your feet to stabilize your ankles is a very common misalignment in Double Pigeon, Pigeon on your belly, and also in Flying Pigeon.
How to Fix It: Flexing your feet protects your ankles from overextending and thereby protects you from lax ligaments and future ankle strains and sprains.
4. Tense Neck and Shoulders
Specifically in Pigeon on your back, you need to relax your neck and shoulders and let your head be heavy. Without this slight adjustment to your upper body, you may find that you carry extra tension or soreness in your neck.
How to Fix It: If it is hard for you to relax your head to the mat, use a bolster or block as a pillow. Your head is heavy, let your neck take a break from holding it up.
5. Foot Under Thigh
This one is actually about to make Pigeon on your belly more comfortable! Often we feel our hips are too tight to come into a deeper version than we could really delve into, so we tuck the foot on our bent knee under our thigh and sit on it.
This can be Wildly uncomfortable and it puts added pressure.
How to Fix It: Try placing your weight in your hands on the mat and moving that foot up a few inches so that your thigh no longer rests on it. You may want a block under your thigh or hands or both to help prop yourself up.
So there you have it, the easiest way to make a challenging posture serve you more during your practice. Happy hips!