What could be a finer hip stretch for a Nestie than one named after a bird: the Pigeon pose, borrowed from yoga. With one leg at a time turned sideways under your extended upper body, you perhaps indeed look like a pigeon -- tipped forward, ready to peck the ground. This position, called Kapotasana in Sanskrit, gives much love to the piriformis, a hip muscle running diagonally across the outside glutes. The lessening of tightness in the piriformis may help relieve sciatic pain and feels just fantastic to Nesties stuck sitting most of the day.
Warm up on your yoga mat with three to five Sun Salutations, followed by Triangle pose and Forward Folds, advises yoga teacher Sadie Nardini. She recommends 20 minutes or so of these preparatory stretches and moves. Group yoga classes may move the Pigeon pose even later in an hour-long class, around the 40-minute mark.
Move into Pigeon from an all-fours position if you are a beginner, or out of the Plank or Downward-Facing Dog if you are more skilled. Bring your front knee -- let’s assume it’s the right one -- forward and outside of your right wrist. Cross your shin on your mat so your right foot rests as nearly as possible to your left hand. If your hips are tight, your foot may be farther back, closer to your left hip crease.
Bring your left leg straight behind you. Adjust its position to stretch it slightly and point your toes toward the back wall.
Lower your upper body carefully toward your mat, only as far as you can while remaining comfortable. Lean your forearms on blocks if you need to, or even keep your body upright, balanced on blocks. If your upper body is flexible enough, ideally lower fully to your mat. Hold this position and inhale and exhale for 60 seconds if possible, as the piriformis requires at least a minute of stretching to relax and lengthen, note the authors of “Yoga Anatomy.” Repeat on the other side.
Return to a neutral pose, such as the seated forward bend, before continuing your practice, typically with inverted postures.
Items you will need
- Yoga mat
- If you are looking for more of a challenge, practice the One-Legged Royal Pigeon pose, or eka pada rajakapotasana, after you master the simpler forward-fold Pigeon Pose. Rather than folding forward with your front leg folded underneath you, raise the ankle of your rear leg and grasp your toes with both hands. You can work up to this level by first reaching for your ankle with your hand on the same side of the body, and eventually twisting back to grasp your ankle instead with the opposite hand. A strap looped around your ankle, may make this variation easier for beginners.
- Avoid collapsing abruptly into this pose, which could strain your hamstrings or knee joints, warn the authors of "Yoga Anatomy.” Take it easy on your descent so your pelvic floor, hamstrings and glutes support the pose.
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