Updated: Oct 2, 2019
For the purpose of this blog, I will be focussing on a seated variation of pigeon pose and the practice of this asana during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
What is it?
Pigeon pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a pose used to open the hips. During pregnancy, the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis become more relaxed - to make way for your growing baby. After birth, it takes time for this to settle and allow the hips to become more stable again.
It is due to this increased flexibility that great care must be taken to protect the hip joints, pelvis and lower back when practicing any hip openers. This seated hip opener is an ideal way of doing that. It provides a support for the lower back and allows you to control the movement without any weight bearing. It also avoids any compression of the major blood supply.
You may have done this 'glute stretch' lying down prior to pregnancy, but lying on your back is not advised after 24 weeks due to this compression.
When to Avoid
If you have any knee injuries or issues, it is advised to take great caution if practicing this asana or avoid all together, particularly if you have any damage to the tendons or ligaments. If you have be diagnosed to pelvic girdle pain (PGP) discuss this pose with your midwife or health care professional to ensure it is appropriate for you to perform.
Benefits during Pregnancy & Postnatally
As your centre of gravity changes throughout pregnancy, postural changes occur causing an imbalance in the way muscles work. This can cause the glute muscles to become very tight, which can be a reason for low back pain.
If you are experiencing sciatica and lower back pain, they can cause the glutes to become tight as we naturally become more tense when we're experiencing pain. This can become a vicious cycle. So this pose can actually help to reduce those symptoms.
After birth, the postural changes are still present and it takes time (and patience) for your natural alignment to return. The abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are yet to regain their 'pre-pregnancy' strength, which makes additional work for the lower back. Combine this with sleep deprivation, caring for a baby, carrying car seats and generally multi-tasking one-handed, it all takes a toll on and ends up in your gluteus maximus.
How to do it
Sitting on a chair, taking care to have your feet place flat on the floor, knees in line with the hips. If the knees are lower than the hips, you can use some books/blocks to raise them. Gently bringing the right knee in towards you, take hold of the ankle and slowly place it onto the left thigh. Keep the toes lifted towards the right knee to protect the knee joint. Sitting up and focusing on your breath, allowing the muscles and ligaments time to soften. Taking 3-5 breaths if comfortable to do so. If you want to increase the stretch, slowly bring your chest towards your thighs and hold. Relax your jaw - our jaw can often clench when stretching muscles around the hips. Repeat on the left side.
You can do this a few times on each side - doing this throughout the day can really help to reduce discomfort. If you experience any pain or discomfort, refrain from doing this pose - let you body guide you.