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Four Pigeon Variations to Stretch Tight Hips

A couple of months ago I wrote about 3 yoga poses for tight, rounded shoulders. The response to the post was great and I’ve received many requests for a version focused on the hips. If I had to identify two areas of the body where my yogis, CrossFit athletes and personal training clients are tight it would definitely be the hips and the shoulders (with hamstrings as a close third).

How do our hips get so tight? Mostly from the fact that we are a sitting culture. We sit at our desks, we sit in the car, we sit on the couch…we sit all the time. When we sit all the time we prevent our hips from experiencing full range of motion. You can kind of picture it as them being stuck in the shortened, sitting position. This is only exacerbated if most of your workouts focus on things like running, cycling and weight lifting which require strength of the hips but not flexibility.

One of the primary things that can result from tight hips is IT band syndrome. This is painful enough in itself but it can also result in pain in the outside of the hips and knees.

There are many ways that you can stretch the hips but one of my favorites is the yoga pose pigeon. In this post I am going to share four variations of pigeon that I use in my yoga classes, with my CrossFit athletes and with personal training clients to stretch tight hips. The variations begin with the most basic and work into deeper hip opening.

Variation 1: Supine Pigeon or Pigeon on the Back 

5.8pigeonback.jpgLie on the back and cross your ankle over your knee. Wrap one hand behind the hamstring as you pull it in towards you and press the other hand into the knee as you push it away from you.

Variation 2: Seated Pigeon


Sit on the floor and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Walk your palms in as close to your hips as possible and press into the palms to lift through the chest. Try to roll the shoulders back and sit up as straight as possible. Press the knee away from you to deepen the stretch.

Variation 3: Prone Pigeon or Pigeon on the Belly


This is the most common version of pigeon that you will find in yoga classes. If it’s not accessible to you or causes pain in the knee, please try one of the above variations. To perform this variation take one shin across the top of the mat. You want the knee to be outside of the side body so be sure that you’re not laying with it in the center of the chest. Pull the toes back towards the shin on the bent leg and reach through the heel. Your hips should be square and you should be resting on the top of the quadricep of the leg that is behind you. It’s common in this pose to want to cock the hips to the side but roll it all back into the center and don’t worry about trying to make contact of the hip with the floor. Probably won’t happen.

Variation #4: Double Pigeon


If your hips are naturally pretty open and you’re ready to go super deep then try double pigeon. From a seated position, cross the knees so that you stack opposite knee over ankle on both sides. Sit up tall and straight.


If you feel comfortable in the seated position, try folding forward and reaching the hands out in front of you and bringing the forehead towards the floor.

DO NOT get frustrated if you can’t even begin to get into this. Many people struggle in double pigeon. I definitely recommend getting comfortable in the other three variations of pigeon that I have shared before attempting double pigeon. If you’re ready to try it but need a little help, try sitting on a block.

Here’s your Pinable graphic of all the four variations.


Coming up next will be stretches for tight hip flexors which create their own whole host of issues. Stay tuned!

Do you experience tight hips from your lifestyle or workouts? How do you deal? 

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots May 9, 2014, 10:38 pm

    I deal with tight hips by going to yoga! Thanks for sharing these variations. I frequently do prone, supine, and seated pigeon in my practice, but haven’t tried double pigeon.

  • 2
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun May 10, 2014, 8:34 am

    I do a variation of all of these because I suffer from tight hips a lot! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • 3
    Michelle May 10, 2014, 9:34 am

    LOVE those leggings! where are they from?

  • 4
    Amanda Bee May 10, 2014, 9:43 am

    Love this post! I need to be better about stretching both shoulders and hips. Mine are so tight, probably from sitting, but also from years of running without any stretching/crosstraining (oops!).

  • 5
    Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} May 10, 2014, 10:00 am

    This is my all time favorite stretch and I love all your variation!

  • 6
    Rebekah {aCricketSang} May 10, 2014, 10:36 am

    Great stretching variations, my hips are always tight.

  • 7
    purelytwins May 10, 2014, 10:43 am

    our favorite stretches!! this is one area we need to focus on more

  • 8
    anne May 10, 2014, 10:55 am

    Thank you Jen! This is so helpful- add me to the list of readers requesting more tips like this. I am in dire need of stretching suggestions , for back/hips/ shoulders… you name it , I need to stretch it.

  • 9
    Ally May 10, 2014, 10:58 am

    Thanks, Jen! These variations are fun. I love them all! Maybe sometime you could do a blog post on hip strengthening?! 🙂

  • 10
    Cami May 10, 2014, 11:46 am

    Love the stretches! And your hair looks so beautiful natural!

  • 11
    Leanne May 10, 2014, 1:26 pm

    I loved this post, great tips to help those who are stuck at a desk for 40+ hrs a week! I’m really looking forward to your hip flexor post in the near future.

  • 12
    Courtney F May 12, 2014, 11:35 am

    Really enjoy this post. Mobility is usually not invested in by athletes and it is good to see it getting out to the masses. Thanks!!

  • 13
    Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run May 12, 2014, 12:02 pm

    i’ve got such tight hips. my pigeons are pretty pathetic.

    love your pink capris — lulu?

  • 14
    Bill December 9, 2015, 6:19 pm

    Love the site. I was wondering what should I be expecting as far as progress in my stretching? I’ve been pretty consistent (three to five times a week) stretching with workout and especially the single pigeon poses for over a year but don’t see a big difference in my flexibility in that particular pose. Especially in my left leg forward where I can barely keep my knee down… Any thoughts or advice?

  • 15
    Katy May 10, 2016, 9:52 pm

    Jumping on the bandwagon – where did you get those leggings ???

    • 16
      Jen DeCurtins May 10, 2016, 9:52 pm

      They are lululemon wunder unders! I got them several years ago so this color isn’t available anymore 🙁

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