5 Pigeon Pose Variations to Loosen Up Your Legs

by Carla Henderson

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Pigeon Pose is a great stretch for your hips and lower back, but not everyone can fold up like origami. And forcing yourself into the pose can put undue strain on your knees, ankles or hips. Use these five variations to increase your range of motion safely and effectively.

Choose one and try to hold the pose for 10 deep breaths on each side. Soon enough, you’ll free your hips and fly the coop. 

1. 90/90

9090 pigeon pose (Photo: Sean Michel)

Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Drop both knees to the right, feet flexed, and turn toward your right leg, squaring your shoulders. Both knees should make 90-degree angles, and your front calf and back thigh should be parallel to one another. 

Troubleshooting: Your weight should be evenly balanced between your two legs. If you’re slouching or leaning to one side, press your hands into the floor to support your weight, then shift back and forth until you feel centered. 

2. Seated Pigeon

Seated Pigeon Pose (Photo: Sean Michel)

Sit with your legs extended straight in front of you, shoulders back. Bend your left knee and let it fall open to the side, then stack your left ankle on top of your right thigh just above your knee, foot flexed. Place your hands behind you for support and keep your chest lifted as you slowly bend your right knee, sliding your right heel toward you glutes as far in as you can. When you feel resistance, pause and hold. 

Troubleshooting: Don’t lean back into your arms, which shifts your weight away from your hips and makes the move less effective. Instead, pull your shoulders back and imagine lifting your chest up and toward your legs to maintain proper posture.

3. Supine Pigeon SUPINE PIGEON

(Photo: Sean Michel)

Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Open your left leg to the side, knee bent, and place your left ankle on top of your right thigh. Clasp your hands around your right shin, then lift both legs toward your chest. Flatten your spine as much as possible, and relax your chin and neck. 

Troubleshooting:  If you can’t clasp your hands around your shin, straighten your right leg and wrap your hands around your thigh. 

4. Standing Supported Pigeon

STANDING SUPPORTED PIGEON (Photo: Sean Michel)

Find a hip-height box or chair. Facing the box, lift your right leg and open it to the side as you lay it on top of the box. Adjust your shin so your knee is bent 90 degrees, foot flexed. Square your hips and shoulders and hold. As your flexibility increases, slowly start to lean over your right leg. 

Troubleshooting:  If you can’t keep your knee bent 90 degrees without assistance or force, use a lower box and place a yoga block or small towel underneath your right leg for support. 

5. Full Pigeon

FULL PIGEON  (Photo: Sean Michel)

Get into a wide lunge with your right leg forward and your left leg back, foot pointed. Place your hands on either side of your right leg, square your hips, then open your right knee to the side and drop it to the floor, foot flexed and knee bent 90 degrees. Square your shoulders and hips over your right leg and hold. 

Troubleshooting: Full Pigeon is hard, but you should still be able to take full, deep breaths while holding the pose. If you feel constricted through your center, sit up tall and pull your shoulders back to open your chest. 

Model: Melissa Rajesh / Hair Makeup: Linda Herberger (LAH Salon) / Sports Bra: Fleo / Leggings: Nobull