Yoga for Runner’s – Pigeon Pose

Thank you so much for all the great feedback on my first two Yoga for Runner’s posts, the benefits of yoga for athletes is something I really do believe in (especially after my great long run this weekend!) and I’m excited to share it with you!  I’ve added a tab called “Yoga for Runners” on the menu above where all the poses will be listed so you can find them easily in the future.

This next pose is hands down the one that has helped my running the most, it’s an AMAZING stretch for those of you who tend to have piriformis issues – otherwise known as runner’s “pain in the butt”.  It is a bit of a complex pose, so I will do my best to break it down with detailed step-by-step instructions and lots of pictures, but if you have any questions at all please feel free to leave a comment and I’m happy to provide more information!

Pigeon Pose 1

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or one legged pigeon pose, you will often just hear this pose referred to as “pigeon”, but there actually is a “double legged pigeon” (which I’ll have to get someone from my yoga class to do for pictures since I can’t do it very well!).

Since this pose is such a deep hip opener it should only be done AFTER you’ve already done some basic yoga poses that warm up and stretch the muscles in this area (such as triangle forward bend and bound angle pose) to be ready for this pose.

Did you get that??  I’m going to repeat it just to make sure we’re all on the same page here: this pose is an intense stretch and should only be done AFTER you’ve already done some basic yoga poses that warm up and stretch the muscles in this area!

Ok, glad we’re clear on that.  Now, to begin to move in to pigeon pose I find it easiest to begin in a lunge position (see step 1 below) – this in itself is a great stretch, I’d suggest staying here for a few seconds to open up your hips and stretch your hamstrings before moving in to the deeper stretch.

From the lunge move your front foot to the opposite wrist (step 2 below) and then lower your hip until you feel the stretch in your hamstring, glutes and piriformis – again PAIN IS BAD in yoga!  I can not say this enough, you should feel a stretch, but if it crosses the line to pain ease up a bit, especially if you are a runner who doesn’t stretch often these muscles will be tight and you need to take your time working in to these poses.

Pigeon Pose

Your hips should stay as squared as possible and your hip, knee and ankle of your back leg should stay in line with each other.  If your hip does not come to the ground you can put a yoga block, a folded towel or blanket or even a pillow under it so that it’s grounded (see photo below) and you can stay comfortably in the pose without over doing the stretch.

Pigeon Pose 2

There are a few variations of this pose that can deepen the stretch in different areas:

  • you can fold forward like I am doing in the photo above
  • you can bend your back knee and hold on to that leg, this will target a stretch in the quad of the back leg (see photo below)
  • or in the ultimate expression of the pose which the lovely Jackie from my yoga teacher training class is demonstrating below you would balance yourself and grab your back leg with both hands (it’s so beautiful, but I am nowhere near being able to do this!)

Pigeon Pose 3

Believe it or not when I began yoga teacher training I was doing this pose with a yoga block under my hip and it was an intense stretch for me, three months later of doing this pose 3-4 times a week my hip comes all the way to the ground!  On long runs I used to get a stabbing pain around my piriformis (the runner’s “pain in the butt”), but by doing this pose and lengthening and stretching the muscle I’ve gone up to 22 miles without the pain!

As I mentioned above this is a complex pose, so if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment of e-mail me and I’d be happy to answer.  Oh, and did I mention you really should do some lighter hamstring and piriformis stretches before moving in to pigeon?  I did?  Oh, ok, just checking!

To see the complete list of poses in the Live, Run, Grow “Yoga for Runner’s” series click here!

Has anyone tried any of the poses?  I’d love to know what you think, or if there is a pose you’d like to see here!

8 thoughts on “Yoga for Runner’s – Pigeon Pose

  1. Oh, pigeon pose is always a painful one, but I can see how much it would help with running.

    I was so inspired when I saw your post this morning (I have a habit of checking email and Google Reader just after waking up) that I did 12 rounds of Sun Salutations! I may make this a daily (or every other day) habit this winter.

  2. I have a love / hate relationship with this pose. I take yin yoga occasionally (usually I just take hatha) and the towel/pillow/yoga block under the hip was a life saver! I still can’t quite reach back for the quad stretch but I’m working on it.

    • Oh my goodness, I HATED pigeon pose (especially holding it in a yin class!), but now I honestly really love it and feel like my practice isn’t complete without it – thinking about how much LESS pain I’ll be in running helps too!

  3. I just wanted to say how awesome these poses are. I’ve been doing them after all my runs. Thanks do much for sharing with us! 🙂

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