Everyone, regardless of level of ability, has encountered yoga poses that they struggle with. Would there be a point to the practice if one didn't find it challenging? Obstacles met on the mat can expose attitudes and approaches that hinder us off the mat as well. When we let go of our expectations and approach these challenges with more curiosity and less angst, we gain knowledge, awareness, love, patience and more! In this post, we talk about exploring challenges, and then provide our stepping-stone approach to Pigeon Pose.
Acknowledging Barriers to Your Practice
Imagine: you are gliding through a new sequence. You are fully engaged in the movements and rhythm! Your breath is nearly effortless... until... you are called into a pose you can't (yet!) execute. Well, hello there, wet blanket on your asana… This is a very natural and instinctive reaction to this disruption in your state of bliss. However, it is not the most productive attitude we can take. A challenging pose, no matter how many times you have faced it, is only a friend with whom you are not fully acquainted. Some acquaintances are really hard to get to know, aren't they? Attempting to build a connection with something that seems unyielding can be frustrating. Always come back to your breath. Time, patience, creativity and persistence will bring insight, and over time, you can inch closer to expressing difficult poses.
Three things to remember about challenge poses:
- 1. The process is more important than the goal.
- 2. This is an opportunity to explore the abilities of your mind and body.
- 3. Striving to attain a new posture will inspire you to practice familiar postures more intently.
Let's apply these ideas to Pigeon Pose
Getting to Pigeon Pose: A Namaste Guide
First of all, don't worry – you will get there! We are going to address this posture by taking a stepping-stone approach. If you are new to your yoga practice and still have a lot of tightness in the legs and the hips, working towards Pigeon Pose will help alleviate tension in these areas. Pigeon also requires a bit of balance, so prepare to gain strength in your core when you are finally able to raise your arms skyward in the full expression of this posture!
Step 1: Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svasana) is a posture that quickly reveals weaknesses in the body as a yogi compensates in his or her efforts to find the pose. If your heels do not sink to the floor in this posture, try inching your hands and feet closer until you find comfort. Think of lifting from your hips while sinking your heels to the earth. Be mindful of your head positioning in this pose, keep your neck and ears aligned with your arms. Push fully through all points of the palms of your hands and fingers to prevent any sliding in the posture.
Three things to remember in Downward Facing Dog:
- 1. Active Arms and Hands. When in this pose, focus on energizing the arms and hands. This will allow the shoulders to relax and stay comfortably in their sockets.
- 2. Breathe. Exhale fully as you first execute this pose. This will help you contract your abdominals and that contraction will help steady your posture.
- 3. Align Your Legs. Take a moment to note the position of your heels. If they are rotated inward, spin them out a bit. This should energize the thighs and hamstrings.
Step 2: Low Lunge
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), will work to open your hips and help familiarize your body with positions that are essential modified splits. Spend time learning the correct distance between your feet in this position. The knee of the forward leg should not extend past the toes of that foot.
Three things to remember in Low Lunge:
- 1. Align Your Hips. When in this pose, your hips should be absolutely square and facing forward. You should feel a gentle stretch in the front of the thigh of the leg along the floor. This will help open the hips for Pigeon Pose.
- 2. Lift Your Chest. Bringing the chest up creates space in the rib cage and lengthens the spine. This will help you find balance when you are ready to release your hands from the floor.
- 3. Drop Your Shoulders. This is where we commonly store our tensions and fears. Take a breath, let it go, and allow the shoulders to fall comfortably in their sockets. This will help you draw the arms back and up farther behind you.
Step 3: Plank Pose
This is the time to build some core strength. Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana) will steady you in Pigeon Pose, allowing for your hands to come off the floor with confidence and ease. Exhale fully when in the posture to engage your abdominals.
Three things to remember here:
- 1. Straight Back. You may want to try this pose in front of a mirror, or have a friend take a photo of you so you can see your alignment accurately.
- 2. Hand Placement. Align your hands directly below or just slightly ahead of your shoulders. Spread your fingers and focus on distributing your weight evenly across each finger and the palms of your hands.
- 3. Look Ahead. Hanging your head will cause your back to arch upward. Extend your gaze out, slightly ahead of you. Think of creating a straight line from your heels, through your spine and neck, all the way to the top of your head.
Step 4: Pigeon Pose
Maintain the placement of the hands when moving from Plank to Pigeon. This gives you a landing point for your knee — just between and slightly ahead of the thumbs. If there is discomfort or cramping in the foot or ankle at this point, try placing a rolled towel under the ankle. If you experience knee pain, try the rolled towel under the front of the knee or behind it. Variations of Pigeon Pose include stacking the lower leg directly under the upper leg, as well as laying the lower leg along the floor at an angle to the upper leg (what we have referred to in Seasons 1 & 2 as Swan Pose). Let your comfort level be your guide as to what variation you choose to practice.
Three things to remember in Pigeon:
- 1. Use Your Core. Exhale and tighten your abdominals to help hold your balance.
- 2. Square Your Shoulders. Use this action to begin a wave of squaring that begins with the shoulders and runs through your hips. This should help distribute your weight evenly across both sides of your body.
- 3. Focus On Your Back Foot. This is an anchor point, and will help you balance in the position. Think of the shin and foot now as one long foot, and ground all of this solidly along the floor. Can you wiggle your toes? Think of laying them along the floor too, do not hold tension there.
When you are ready, lift your chest to begin bringing your hands off the floor. If this is difficult, begin just by lifting your palms and leaving your fingers in contact for balance. Use the same techniques you applied to Low Lunge to position your upper body. Take a deep breath and smile! Do you feel like you are ready to fly? Namaste. ❤
We love hearing about your personal yoga journey. No matter if you are a beginner or advanced yogi, we are honored to support your practice. Feel free to post any questions you have about this guide, or any suggestions for future guides. Be well and stay in touch.