Learning to love the pigeon stretch

Learning to love the pigeon stretch

Over the last few years I’ve been a very desultory student of yoga.

Truth is, I don’t really enjoy it, nor do I think I’ve made any progress whatsoever. I blame it on a very indifferent teacher – too complicated to explain the whys and wherefores – and yes, I know, I know, it’s a poor workman who blames his tools etc etc.

I keep telling myself to ditch this teacher and find a better one – I can’t be the ONLY person in the world for whom yoga doesn’t seem to work…can I?

Be that as it may, today being Word Health Day, I thought I’d chat a little about a yoga stretch that I’m actually learning to love. Much to my surprise.

Of all the aches and pains I’ve had over the past year or so, regular training and especially weight-lifting, have sorted them out. I no longer have back pain (touch wood), nor much knee pain (touch wood) and all that’s left to moan about is a persistent low-grade pain in my right glute.

Tight hip flexors, I’m told.

Enter the pigeon stretch.

Vijay, my wonderful trainer, has added this stretch to my post-workout routine and although I am stiff as a board, and still can’t do it properly, I am – possibly quite bizarrely – in love with this stretch.

Here’s what the basic stretch looks like:

And here’s what the stretch does:

This pose focuses on opening your hips, which supports mobility and flexibility in that joint.

Pigeon Pose also stretches your hip flexors and lower back, which are commonly tight due to prolonged sitting. Stretching these muscles regularly may alleviate mild lower back or hip pain.”

There are several more complex and advanced variations to this pose, but for now I’m at the most basic level and not even able to place my front leg correctly, but I can definitely feel relief when I do this stretch.

As ever, because I’m a tad nerd-y, I decided to investigate this stretch a little further (aka Google it) and there I came across all kinds of online questions such as:


Crying due to a yoga pose?

I investigated even further, and it is absolutely fascinating to learn that this hip-opener stretch can affect people emotionally:

Over the years, I have heard many yoga teachers say that the hips are the storeroom of emotions especially anger and suppressed feelings. They say that is why strong emotions arise during deep hip opening yoga poses like Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana.

What I found equally fascinating was the article (link just below) which posits that this amazing stretch might not always be useful, especially for women:

When we talk about hip opening we usually refer to external hip rotation, Pigeon pose and the like. Many students have a love-hate relationship with this pose; it’s the kind that “hurts good”.

“Hurts good”.

That is EXACTLY what I feel with this stretch, but thus far I’m of the “love it” school of thought, not the “hate it”.

The hurt feels as though it is doing me good, if that makes any sense.

On my running partner‘s advice, I even tried a modified version the other day in the car park, after a run, where I leaned against the car bonnet and stretched…dunno if that’s an acceptable yogic variation, but it sure did the trick.

This stretch might even be my “gateway drug” leading me towards loving yoga…

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