Pigeon Pose and alternatives -- playfulness and adaptability as the seasons change
November 05, 20203 min read
By Team Member Kathryn Boland
Some people see pigeons as a nuisance (they can, at times, be mean -- parents of little ones, keep a watchful eye!). Yet a wonderful thing about these city-dwelling birds is how in the heat and in the cold, they're out there flying from park to park and pecking for food. As they bob their heads and waddle as they walk, they bring a playfulness to their presence -- no matter the season. Their adaptability is remarkable.
Yoga can help us to grow this skill of bringing joyfulness to our presence, no matter what external conditions may be (denying or invalidating genuine human emotion, or spiritual bypassing, is another matter -- the key difference is honoring whatever may come and seeing it all as part of a growth journey). For kids, combining adaptability and playfulness can allow them to respond to unforeseen changes in their days with more calm and less upset, as well as be more pro-social (for example, allowing a friend to play with the toy that they wanted to play with).
All of that considered, Pigeon Pose is a great pose for kids, educators, parents, and caregivers to increase flexibility and feel playful together. The pose creates a significant stretch in the hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves. While practicing it, one will feel the stretch where they're tightest. The strange shape can bring a feeling of
playfulness, even as the grounded feeling it brings can also instill calm.
Please do note that the pose isn't appropriate for all bodies, however. For example, it is contraindicated (or not to be practiced) for those who've had knee surgery. With any shooting pain or localized pain, or pain in one particular spot in the body, try the alternatives of Figure 4 Pose or Lizard Pose (both described below). Please note also that our version of the pose does not guide the practitioner to fold over the front leg, as the pose is often taught. This is for safety of the joints and muscles in that front leg, particularly those of the knee.
Pose: Pigeon Pose
Ages: ages 5 and up
Mantra: "I am playful. I am flexible."
From all fours, bring your right knee towards your right hand.
Slide your left leg back and tuck your toes under. Your foot should land between your opposite hip and the height of your knee.
Keep your hips square to the ground.
Place your hands on each side of your leg.
Press both of your hands into the ground to lift your heart and head.
Stretches the hips, upper and lower legs, and lower back
Makes room for expansive breath in the chest and back
Brings a grounding sense of calm
Encourages an easy smile, maybe even a soft giggle!
Activities with kids
While the legs are in the shape of the pose and the torso is upright, move the head quickly (but gently) forward and back and side to side, like a playful pigeon!
What sound does a pigeon make? Have students give it a try!
Can students make pigeon claws? Have them try waking their hands at their sides like a pigeon walks with their clawed feet.
To deepen the grounding feeling of this pose, ask students to take three deep breaths with you -- filling up from the bellybutton to the neck as they breathe in and emptying all of that out as they breathe out.
Pose: Figure 4
Ages: ages 3 and up
Mantra: "I can release."
Lie down on your back.
Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
Bring one ankle across the opposite knee.
Grab onto the thigh of the leg that has a foot on the ground with both hand.
Slowly draw your thigh closer to your body until your hip tells you that you stretched enough.
Stay and breathe.
Repeat on the other side.
Pose: Lizard Pose
Ages: 5 and up
Mantra: "I can slither and slide."
From Tabletop, Downward-Facing Dog, or a Lunge, step your right foot towards the right outer edge of your mat, so that both arms are on the inside of that foot.
Bend deeply into your right knee, while you let your back (left) heel rise towards the sky.
Look just a little bit forward to help with your balance, or let your head hang to let it relax!
Hold the pose for three to five breaths. What is your body telling you about the pose? What would make it feel good? Make changes to your pose if necessary.
Take the pose on the other side.
Want to learn more about how to share the unique gifts of yoga and mindfulness with children/youth, parents, caregivers, and educators? Need tools for doing so? Flow and Grow Kids Yoga has you covered!