Overview of Pose: One of the classic Yin postures, Pigeon, and her sister pose, Swan, comes to us from Kapotanasana in Ashtanga Yoga. In both Yin and Ashtanga, calf of forward leg works toward parallel across top of the mat while back leg keeps knee-cap down to intensify stretch into hip joint. Trying to keep both hips parallel and tracking forward on the same plane is key to this pose.
Basic Cuing: From Down Dog or Table, take right knee forward until it touches the right wrist. Use muscles, or your hands, to work shin as close to parallel across the top (short) end of the mat as possible. Gently begin to slide the straight leg back, working to turn the knee cap and toe nails down to the ground. Use the back leg to help lever the left hip forward to parallel with the right hip. Once hips are parallel and legs are in position, begin folding forward over the bent inner leg, trying to take belly button to inner thigh.
Modifications/Props: For students with super-tight hips, back off from parallel on the front calf. If necessary, drop hip down into Swan. Place a bolster or blanket across the bent leg and drape torso forward. Block, blanket or bolster under forehead helps the student ground into the pose. NOTE: Placing a blanket under the flexing hip seems like a good support, but can actually intensify the pose if the blanket is set too high. Using the wall to press the toes of the straight leg back helps square and align the hips.
Flow Ideas: Pigeon seems to work best from a pose like Down Dog, where the hips are already disengaged and can easily move forward. Also works from Child’s Pose, or from any seated pose (e.g., Fire Log/Square Pose).