Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajkapotasana) is a very popular yoga pose, and for good reason. It’s a really good stretch for pretty much your whole leg/hip area. Great for runners and other active people. Also, for he desk bound.
Done wrong, just like any physical movement done wrong, it can wreak havoc with your joints, most notably your SI Joints and your knees. It might not happen immediately, but rather as a cumulative effect – lots of little misalignments, and one day, pain.
Nobody wants to end up with knee pain or instability after yoga! It’s meant to be a healing art.
Never fear, a little bit of self-awareness will go a long way to protecting you and allowing you to soften into the experience of the pose as it is in YOUR body, not as you think it should be because you saw a picture. Everyone is so different: our skeletons are different, our proportions are different, our ligaments and tendons and muscles are different, the way we use our bodies…
So it stands to reason that the way we do yoga poses will also differ greatly from person to person and day to day, yes?
Consider these pictures, of me, and my lovely student Sondra. We took them after the corporate class that happens at her work.
She and I have about the same ability to turn our legs outwards in the hip socket (external rotation) BUT a very different range of motion in bringing our legs away from the midline of the body (abduction). I can go quite far, Sondra can’t. Conversely, she can cross her legs across her body (adduction) with more ease than I can.
So our pigeon poses look very different:
As do our Half Moon Poses (Ardha Chandrasana):
Sondra is a dedicated yogi and she is flexible and strong – but if she lifts her leg further into the air, she gets a nasty pinching pain in the outside of her hip.
That leads me to conclude that she shouldn’t do that. On account of how it hurts and all.
As you practice your poses, ask yourself:
- do I feel ‘stuck’ here?
- what would happen if I changed the angle of my leg? how does that feel?
- could I change the angle of my hands/arms/legs to be more comfortable in other poses?
There’s no right or wrong, and it doesn’t matter if you can’t come up with an answer to these questions.
Just explore: if you find anything interesting, you can always google it, ask me or your teacher. Bodies are so fascinating, I never get tired of looking at the amazing diversity we have!
A note of caution: pigeon pose is contraindicated for acute SI joint pain or instability, as it can make things worse, and also for knee instability or pain, as a rule.