Pigeon pose is a famous hip opener which is included in every serious stretching. Unlike most of the other hip opening stretches, the pigeon pose hits both the external rotation of the femur in the hip socket and stretches the psoas muscle. It is also a deep backbend, especially if you advance towards King Pigeon. Moreover, it stimulates the organs in the abdomen and activates the sympathetic nervous system, helping you to deal with stress.
Pigeon is usually just one of the postures in yoga or stretching sequences. But since it is such a deep hip opener, you could benefit from highlighting it or making it the central part of your practice. It is important to be warmed up before stretching so be sure to do a few sun salutations before you proceed to the sequence.
Begin with a lighter hip stretch. For example, some of the postures you could start with are Bound Angle Pose and Thread the Needle pose. Bound Angle Pose is a gentle stretch which externally rotates your hips. You can easily modify the level of this stretch by moving your feet closer or away from your hips. Thread the needle is often said to be the best entrance posture to the pigeon. Be sure to work with the same intensity and duration on both legs. It actually gives similar results as the pigeon pose and is, therefore, a great version for beginners.
After these stretches, it would be good to go on with poses which besides hips also stretch your upper legs. Good postures which do all of this are Downward Dog and its variation – Three-Legged Dog, then the different variations of the Warrior pose and the low lunge. All of these postures open your hips further also stretching your chest, shoulders, and quads. They lengthen your whole body and thoroughly warm it up for the Pigeon Pose.
After these, you can enter the main pose. There are many variations of the Pigeon pose, fit for every level of practice. The first one is with a block under your hips for more support. The next is without the block but with your upper body raised from the ground and your hands firmly grasping the floor. In the third variation, you lower your upper body to the ground, and in the final fourth variation, you reach your hands back and bend your back leg for King Pigeon. In all the variations the main focus is to keep your hips squared. All the variations are beneficial, so there is no need to go over your edge.
After you’ve spent some time in the Pigeon pose, finish the sequence with a few low impact postures. Start with a light forward bend such as Child’s pose or pull your knees towards your nose while lying on your back. Stay in these poses for some time to relax the body and let it cool down. You could also add a twist pose in the end. It will release tension in your hips and lightly stretch your spine.
After everything, spend some time in Savasana and meditation.