This Is the Best Way to Get Into Pigeon Pose to Get That Ooey Gooey Hip Stretch

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There are yoga poses you might dread in your practice, and there are others you probably can't wait for the instructor to call out. If you’re someone who has ultra-tight hips that stay sore 24/7 (looking at you, runners!), doing pigeon pose yoga can practically untangle the tension. But in order to reap the pigeon pose benefits, it's important to learn how to perform the yoga hip opener correctly.

Whether you're in need of some instructions on pigeon pose for beginners, are looking for pigeon pose variations or pigeon pose modifications, or want to know the perks of adding the move into your routine, you're in the right place.

Experts In This Article

What is pigeon pose?

If you're looking for yoga for hip flexibility or yoga for hip pain, this is your move. Pigeon pose is a hip-opening yoga asana (pose) that involves stretching into a low lunge position with one leg bent in front of you and the other extended behind you.

“The pigeon pose’s primary purpose is to open the outer hips,” says Nicole Wood, master trainer with YogaSix. With that being said, aside from the hips, the pose also stretches the thighs, groin, and back. “A person's torso can be lifted with their crown toward the sky, or a person can fold forward over their front leg.”

There are also numerous pigeon pose variations that extend the stretch even further, such as one-legged king pigeon pose.

The benefits of pigeon pose

You already know how yoga changes your body for the better, making you feel more balanced from head to toe. And performing this yoga hip opener in particular certainly has its perks, with numerous pigeon pose benefits that can come from making it a regular part of your practice.

Aside from being a great yoga pose for lower body flexibility, as it stretches your hips, lower back, and glutes, the move also helps relieve hip pain. Wood also says pigeon pose can stimulate the digestive system, as evidenced by a 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which suggests yoga could serve as a remedial treatment for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Now that we’ve covered how pigeon pose can benefit us physically, let's delve into its mental aspects—particularly in the context of yoga and trauma. Experts say pigeon pose can offer healing effects in this regard. Because energy is often held in the hips, engaging in a hip-opening yoga flow, including pigeon pose, may facilitate emotional release.

“As someone who has ridden some very emotional waves in pigeon, I think [the emotional release] stems from the blend of intense sensation and relief—often bordering on the edge of comfort—coupled with the safety of a low-to-the-ground, prone position,” Kelly Clifton Turner, yoga instructor and vice president of training and experience for YogaSix, previously told Well+Good. “It feels somehow safer to let go without feeling ‘exposed’ to others around me.”

But how often should you do yoga to reap these benefits? While there's not a one-size-fits-all answer, the general consensus from experts is sticking to a regular practice. If your schedule allows for it, aim for daily sessions. If not daily, aim for at least three to five times per week.

Common mistakes, risks, and safety precautions

While there are plenty of pigeon pose benefits you can reap from doing the hip-opening yoga asana regularly, it’s not for everyone. The way you position your body during this pose could cause more harm than good in some individuals, according to Wood.

“Someone should avoid this pose if they’ve had a recent knee, back, or hip injury, or if they’re experiencing inflammation or chronic pain in the knee, back, or hip,” she says.

Those with sensitive knees should also be careful, using pigeon pose modifications to avoid discomfort or injury. “If sensitive knees are an issue, one can place a cushion between the thigh and calf of the forward leg,” she says.

It’s also very important to move into the hip-opening yoga asana correctly. One of the most common mistakes Tess Koenig, yoga instructor at VERAYOGA, sees when she’s teaching is students not entering the pose from a downward dog. Instead, many practitioners enter the pose "from the ground up." This can put undue stress on your knees and it collapses your core without really opening up the hips or stretching anything.

"The thing about pigeon pose is that it's a hip opener, not a knee stretch," Koenig says. "It might touch other parts of your body, but you really want to make it about your hips."

After all, the hips are pretty much mandatory in so many of the activities that we do every day, from sitting at our desks at work to going on walks. Getting into pigeon pose the right way can mean the difference between hip pain and mobility, and we can all meet at the mat for that.

How to prepare for pigeon pose

When thinking about pigeon pose for beginners, Wood says the best way to prepare is to start with deer pose. Deer pose, while similar to pigeon pose, is a super gentle yoga pose that’s much more accessible and comfortable because it doesn't put as much pressure on your front knee.

“Students also have the option to sit on a block or cushion in deer pose to help create more space in their hips,” she says.

With time, you may feel more prepared for pigeon pose. When you’re ready, Wood recommends easing in with some props.

“If a person has stiffness in their hips, they can use a cushion or block under the hip of their front leg,” she says. A

ll in all, just listen to your body. You’ll know what feels best to you.

How to do pigeon pose, step by step

Whether you’re exploring pigeon pose for beginners or are a longtime yogi looking to perfect your form to reap the full benefits of the yoga hip opener, learn to perform it correctly using the step-by-step instructions below.


  1. Start in downward dog with your hands and feet pressed into the floor and your body in an upside-down “V” shape.
  2. Sweep your right leg to the sky then draw your right knee behind your right wrist.
  3. Slide your back leg directly behind you and untuck your toes.
  4. Hug your left hip forward and draw your right hip crease back.
  5. Place your hands under the shoulders, or move into another arm variation. If folding forward, come down to your elbows or hands. “To serve the primary purpose more fully, adjust the front shin closer to parallel to the front of the mat if the hips can remain rooted,” Wood says.
  6. Hold for several counts.
  7. Return to downward dog and repeat on the opposite side.

Pigeon pose modifications and variations

Need some pigeon pose modifications? No problem. There are a couple ways Wood recommends making this yoga hip stretch more comfortable. First, grab a cushion or block and place it under the hip of your front leg for more support. If you’re folding forward, you can also use a block or cushion under your arms, stomach, or head.

If you've nailed pigeon pose and are up for a challenge, there are a couple harder pigeon pose variations you can try: mermaid pose and one-legged king pigeon. While you definitely need some bendiness for mermaid, one-legged king pigeon requires even more flexibility.

"King pigeon is a deep backbend," Krissy Jones, co-founder of Sky Ting Yoga, previously told Well+Good. "[It’s] great for flexibility and mobility of the spine."

For mermaid pose:

  1. Start in pigeon pose with your right leg bent in front of you and left behind you.
  2. Open toward the back leg, reaching your left arm behind you.
  3. Bend your left leg so your foot meets your hand.
  4. Bring your foot closer to your body, allowing you to hook your foot in the bend of your left arm.
  5. Once you feel stable and secure, bring your right arm up so you're able to clasp your fingers behind you.

For one-legged king pigeon:

  1. Start in pigeon pose with your right leg bent in front of you and left behind you.
  2. Open toward the back leg, reaching your left arm behind you.
  3. Bend your left leg so your foot meets your hand.
  4. Spin your left elbow toward the ceiling, drawing your foot up toward your head.
  5. Grab your foot with both hands, pointing both elbows toward the sky.
  6. Draw your head back to meet the arch of your left foot.


1. What is the pigeon pose good for?

There are plenty of reasons why to add pigeon pose into your routine. First, it's a great yoga pose for lower body flexibility, targeting your hips, lower back, and glutes. In addition, Wood says it can help support digestion and stimulate the endocrine system.

2. Who should not do the pigeon pose?

While pigeon pose is a great yoga hip stretch, it’s not suitable for everyone. Wood says anyone with a knee, back, or hip injury—or anyone who experiences inflammation or chronic pain in these areas—should avoid it. Instead, opt for a gentler pigeon pose variation. According to Wood, deer pose is one of the best pigeon pose alternatives, giving you a similar feel-good stretch.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Kavuri, Vijaya et al. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 398156. doi:10.1155/2015/398156

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