Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Chair Pigeon: I Think I’ve Done This Before

By Anytimeyoga @anytimeyoga

But maybe not.

Either way, I want to look at a chair variation of pigeon. This is useful for times when the traditional variation — where the hips have to support the weight of the torso against gravity — is not so great. And it’s also great for folks who spend a lot of time in chairs — wheeled, office, whatever — of various sorts.

In terms of body mechanics, it has a lot of the same front-leg (or in this case, top-leg) actions as does traditional pigeon. The hip and knee are both flexed, the thigh is externally rotated, and the hip has the same adduction/abduction options as it does in the floor pose. However, because the chair is supporting the torso here — rather than the pelvis and legs, which is what happens in the floor pose — the relationship to gravity is pretty different.

Generally, this means that the chair version is a gentler hip stretch as there’s not as much inherent force on the muscles being stretched. This can be good for people and/or times when the floor version of the posture is too intense — for example, folks who have trouble getting down on or up from the floor, folks who have tighter hips, earlier in the day or during a practice, or at a time when it’s just inconvenient to lie down on the floor. For instance, I can pretty easily do chair pigeon at work. I cannot just lie down on the floor in front of students.

I mean, I could, but they all generally think I’m weird enough as it is.


The version of this pose that’s probably the gentlest involves keeping the torso upright and possibly bringing the bottom leg straight:

[Nora Forziati instructing for Expert Village. Video via YouTube.]

Effectively, lengthening the bottom leg also allows the top knee and/or hip angle to increase — lessening the stretch and/or strain in the top hip — as well. For folks who try the upright chair version and find they want more stretch, bringing the torso forward is a good option:

[April Kirkhart instructing for Expert Village. Video via YouTube.]

While this doesn’t change the knee angle, it does increase the amount of flexion in the front hip. Additionally, it changes the pose’s relationship to gravity yet again. Bringing the torso forward places more weight onto the hips, increasing the intensity of the stretch. However, unlike the floor version, here the “starting point” is with virtually zero weight on the hips (because of the supporting chair). Moreover, because the chair continues to support the pelvis as the torso leans forward, it’s a lot easier to control precisely how far forward one comes. So it’s easier to fold forward in smaller increments compared to the floor pose.

So in addition to folks who know chair pigeon is a good option for them for reasons of flexibility, mobility, or convenience, it can also be a good option for the sake of experimenting with hip stretching with reduced risk of hurting oneself.

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