Pose Breakdown | Pigeon/Swan

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Nancy Nelson

Today we break down a pose I have a constant love/hate relationship with – swan pose! Most commonly known as pigeon pose, this is a great stretch to add into your daily routine no matter what kind of day you’ve had. It allows you to gently dig into the deep tissues of the hip socket and find awesome release! The reason I struggle with this pose sometimes is because it can be really intense! Make sure you pay attention to ways to modify this if it’s a bit too much for you today. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Swan/Pigeon Pose


Starting in table top pose, stretch your left leg back behind you. Begin to draw the left knee toward the left wrist and set the shin down at the top of the mat. Scoot your right leg back until you can hang heavily into the hips. Support yourself with a blanket if needed. Take a few moments upright and then begin to lower forward as your body opens up. As surges of sensation arise, allow yourself a moment’s pause and breathe until the intensity settles, then dive a little deeper. *Repeat on the other side*

Swan/Pigeon PoseSwan/Pigeon Pose
















  • DON’T RUSH – The point of the posture is to find resistance and breathe through it. Rushing beyond your sensations is not only physically unsafe but it’s robbing you from the true experience of release.
  • DETAILS – Make sure that your hips stay level and that your back heel lines up with your knee and hip.


  1. Reclined/Seated Pigeon | If you have knee or ankle sensitivity or if the posture is simply too intense on your body, take this refreshing variation to lighten to burden on the hip as it releases.
  2. Double Pigeon | If pigeon pose is a stretch that feels nice and you’d like to go another layer deeper, you can transition from your pigeon pose into double pigeon by drawing the back leg forward and situate it above the forward leg/shin. Make sure that your ankles are okay with this as there will be a lot of pressure on those joints in the pose.
  3. Threaded Needle | If the left leg is forward, you can take the right arm and thread it under the left resting on the right side of the face. You can add a deep quad stretch here by bending the back knee and grabbing for the ankle with a strap or your hand.
Reclined Pigeon Variation
Reclined Pigeon Variation
Double Pigeon w/blanket
Double Pigeon w/blanket
Threaded Needle variation
Threaded Needle variation


























  • Externally rotates the hips, especially helpful after a long day of sitting or standing still.
  • Releases the fronts of the legs in the quadriceps and up into the hip flexors (for the back leg)
  • Upright, this pose serves as a nice backbend helping to restore the natural curvature of the spine.
  • Increases blood circulation from the top of the body to the bottom, creating a balancing effect body and mind.


  • Stimulates the urinary and kidney lines through the inner groin region; gall bladder and urinary through the low back when sitting upright; and the stomach and spleen which pass across the top of the leg (back leg).
  • Gently energizes: When sitting upright in pigeon, you will find a small backbend creating a natural surge of energy. Great to do after a long day at work when feeling groggy.
  • Emotional release: The hips are known to house emotional stress. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, stress, fear, worry, etc. a lot of that stress finds it’s way to the hips by tightening up the fascia in that region. When you sit in this pose for an extended amount of time, it is common to encounter some of these emotions coming to the surface ready to release. If this occurs, simply breathe and let go. Try not to resist these things as they are meant to be sent out.

USE CAUTION: Contraindications for this posture include…

  • Vertebral issues in the lumbar spine/SI joint. Be sure to support yourself using props so you are careful not to strain these already sensitive joints. Sitting onto a block or blanket (under front hip) is a good way to support and stabilize these areas.
  • Numbness. If you start to feel tingly, please be sure to back out of the pose until this numbing sensation ceases. You do not want to put pressure on your nerves in this way as it will damage functionality over time.
  • Knee/Ankle sensitivity or injury. If you have any current or previous injury or pain in these joints, take a modified version of this pose until you find that the joints are ready for more intensity. This could take a long time or a matter of weeks. Be patient and trust the process.

HOLD: 5-7 minutes, depending on your own personal needs. Come up very slowly from this posture (as in any yin pose).


You want to stretch out the leg that was bend after a pose like this, especially following a long hold.  One nice option is  to take a 3 legged downward dog or table top and move your leg/knee in circular directions until you find a good release.

Table top/down dog counter poses
Table top/down dog counter poses
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Titles for Website (38)
Nancy Nelson
Nancy Nelson
Nancy is the fearless leader here at Nancy Nelson Yoga! She has been instructing yoga since 2012 and is certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) with Yoga Alliance. She loves guiding yoga classes in all forms – from sweaty vinyasa flows, to slow mindful movement - but her favorite style to practice and teach is yin yoga. She attended a formal 50-hour Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark and Diana Batts in the fall of 2018 and it truly propelled her into developing her yin focused website, webinars and trainings.

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