If you’ve practiced with Matt before, you’ll be aware of the domino effect or the ripple effect of how a yoga posture unfolds. Matt brilliantly breaks down every pose with care and intricate detail. This helps you not only to understand a pose intellectually but also to physically feel this unfolding take place in your body; it’s like the satisfaction you feel when you hear the snap of the correct puzzle piece connecting into the right place. King Pigeon is a perfect example of this unfolding. One action intimately informs the next.
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At first glance, it appears that a great deal of shoulder flexion is required for King Pigeon Pose. That’s not false, but there is more to that than meets the eye. The setup of King Pigeon additionally requires shoulder extension, elevation, a balance between internal and external rotation, and retraction of the scapulae. In other words, it can appear and/or even feel quite complex because there are a lot of muscle engagements and contracting actions taking place. More specifically, it’s how these actions are carried out.
If you’re not familiar with how Matt teaches Downward-Facing Dog, you should check out my previous article, Downward-Facing Dog Shoulder Alignment. There are parallels that are extremely helpful. Once you are in King Pigeon, the key to safer alignment is the elevation of the shoulders and then the pulling of the armpits back (hollowing of the armpits). These 2 actions take place in Downward-Facing Dog in order to help to minimize the possibility of shoulder impingement. In King Pigeon, these actions will also help to create greater shoulder mobility while reducing the potential for pain in the front of the shoulders and in the upper trapezius.
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KING PIGEON: FULL BODY AWARENESS FOR YOUR SHOULDERS
MORE THAN THE SHOULDERS
In order to diminish potential strain or pain in the shoulders, there are other actions and muscle activations that also hold great importance. Understanding the rest of the posture will help you to find more ease in your execution. For example, creating a more robust backbend (spinal extension) will help reduce the amount of pressure in the shoulders. This will of course require the activation and then stretching/opening of the chest.
One of the most valuable actions is actually the pressing forward of the inner elbow. This is the catalyst for the external rotation that brings the arms up into flexion. When the arms are here, the armpits lift and pull back, through which, with awareness and intention, you can actively create scapular retraction (activation of the rhomboids, upper & middle trapezius, and rear deltoid muscles). Let’s look at the ripple effect.
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KING PIGEON WITH A YOGA STRAP
(Right leg in front)
- Come into Pigeon Pose. A block underneath the right-side buttock is a great reminder and support to keep the hips more leveled. You can still stabilize and be intentional about activating the glute muscles.
- Loop a strap around your foot.
- Grab the strap with your left hand (palm facing up).
- Turn your chest towards your foot.
- Do a side bend by sending the right ribs forward.
- Use hamstrings to pull your foot closer.
- Pull your elbow in.
- Rotate the arm so it is externally rotated.
- Elbow comes up.
- Once the elbow is by your face, you can close/turn the pelvis.
- Lift your hips up.
- Grab the strap with other hand.
It’s almost like a checklist—once you have completed one action, you will see how the others intuitively get checked off and naturally fall into place; in other words, once you maintain the side bend and pull your foot closer, your elbow will naturally pull in closer to your body.
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