I’ve mentioned before that I’m not all that up-close-and-personal with Yin and Restorative Yoga because I have the attention span of a gnat and don’t like being still for long periods of time, but every now and then I teach slow paced classes, and I do have a tendency to throw the odd restorative pose into a regular class if I think the students need it. One I often use, and I know students usually love, is a Restorative Pigeon. Pigeon is one of those poses which gets a lot of yogis in an emotional pickle because it’s either incredibly intense for their crazy-tight hips, or they’re doing it incorrectly and therefore hurting themselves. A long time ago, I started shoving blocks and folded blankets under the hips of any student who refused to admit that they couldn’t get both sit bones down on the floor; mostly because I don’t want them to hurt themselves by torqueing their knee in at an unnatural angle, but also a little because….you know…I don’t want to get sued for allowing my students to hurt themselves.
Whenever I teach this pose to a student for the first time, most look at me like I’m crazy for about three seconds, and then realise that it’s pretty awesome when they get over the peculiarity of it.
How to Restorative Pigeon
1. Place a bolster smack-bang in the middle of your mat so that is horizontal before you. Place your hands in front of the bolster and lift into a Downward Facing Dog with your feet behind the bolster. Lift your right leg into the air for a Three Legged Dog.
2. Swing your right knee over the top the bolster and bring it down to the floor so that your right heel can rest alongside the long edge of the bolster before your left wrist. Lower your hips onto the bolster with your left leg extended behind you. YOUR RIGHT KNEE MUST BE FLAT ON THE FLOOR! Slide as far forward onto the bolster as you need to in order to make this happen.
3. Check in with your right foot and ensure that you’re flaring the toes back towards your knee. Check in with your left leg and ensure that your hamstring, calf and heel are all pointing up to the ceiling. The leg should be straight out behind you with no sickling in the ankle.
4. Walk your hands as far forward as you can to lower down onto your elbows. If it’s comfortable to do so, lower your chest down until you can rest your forehead on the floor or a prop of your choice.
Now... take a little nap.
REMEMBER! Look after your knees! If this posture hurts your leading knee in any way, get out of the pose immediately. If a regular Pigeon stretch causes pain in your knee, a supported stretch may still not be appropriate for you, so please listen to your poor aching joints and avoid any permanent damage.