Pigeon Pose Series: Core Strengthening

Here’s a quick way to spice up your Pigeon pose by adding some Core Stability through your transverse abdominis muscle.  Plus I’ll introduce a different, more active way to get into Pigeon pose!

Other benefits include:

  • Increased Active Range of Motion of your Hips
  • Increased Hip Stability (by strengthening your Butt-tator cuff)
  • Gluteal muscle activation
  • Spinal Extensor Muscle Strengthening
  • Transverse Abdominal Trunk Stabilization
  • Thoracolumbar Fascia stretch

I picked this up at a Foundation Training seminar led by Peter Park (the book is a must have).  As you can see it’s a whammy when it comes to therapeutic benefits to your body!


Bust out your mat, or drop down to the floor and let’s get this party started.

Start: Upward Staff Pose to Active Pigeon

  1. Start with you feet out in front of you
  2. Bring your Right leg into a Figure 4 position
  3. Swing your Left leg behind you, plant it straight with your foot flat (rather than toes tucked)
  4. Use your hands and lift your hips upwards, as high off the ground as you can.
    • Progression: Try not to use your hands, let your legs move you into Active Pigeon

You’re now in:

Step #2: Active Pigeon


  1. The goal of active Pigeon is to lift your hips as high off the ground as you can.
    1. Drive your front shin into the ground
    2. Press your back thigh into the ground
  2. After the lift, stabilize by squeezing your butt on your back leg.
  3. Hold here for 4 breaths with your hands by your sides, (slightly hinge forward if this is too much and your back begins to spasm)
    1. Progression: Lift your arms overhead and feel your Spinal muscles engage more. (great way to add strength to your back muscles)

Step #3: Active Hinged Pigeon w/ Spider Fingers


  1. After 4 breaths (or longer) in Active Pigeon, bring your hands out in front of you and begin to walk your hands forward as you hinge from your hips.
    1. Use Spider fingers here to strengthen the hands (Fingertips on the ground, palms lifted)
  2. Keep your chest upright, and your back flat.  Also maintain the lift in your hips and active glutes from Active pigeon
  3. In your Active Folded position add your Core: Keep your hands firmly rooted where they are, and try to pull them towards your hips.
    1. You’ll feel your armpits and trunk/belly engage if done properly.
  4. Hold here for 4 breaths, keep your chest up, your hips active the entire time!

Step #4: Active Side Stretch Pigeon


  1. After 4 breaths (or more) in the Active Spider Finger Hinged Pigeon begin to walk your Spider fingers over your Figure 4 Leg (in this example walk your hands over your right leg).
  2. Stop once you find the stretch at the corner point of your Figure 4 leg hip 
  3. Tune into the stretch along the entire opposite (Left) side.
  4. Keep your chest upright, hips lifted, glutes engaged, and keep your hands active, try to pull them towards you once again
  5. Hold for 4 breaths

Step #5: Transition to the Other Side

  1. After 4 breaths (or more) in the side stretch, walk your hands back and lift your chest back up into Active Pigeon.
  2. From here transition to Upward Staff Pose (where you began):
    1. Plant your hands (not demonstrated)
    2. Lean into the side of your Figure 4 leg
    3. Swing your back (Left) leg forward
    4. Figure 4 your Left leg
    5. Swing your Right leg behind you, toes untucked
    6. Lift your hips up into Active Pigeon
    7. Rinse and Repeat the above steps for this side
      1. 4 breaths each in Active pigeon – Hinged Spider Finger Pigeon – & Side Stretch Pigeon
  3. It is possible to progress that transition by keeping your hands forward and off the ground and using only your legs to get into Active Pigeon. (As demonstrated)


****At no point should any of the above poses/transitions cause pain or discomfort.  If they do please avoid doing them and consult a physician who can evaluate your condition and help you recover****

Make it into a Flow!

It’s possible to turn Staff-Active Pigeon-Staff-Active Pigeon into a Vinyasa (breath to movement) flow:

  • Inhale – Staff
  • Exhale – Swing your legs into Active Pigeon
  • Inhale – Lift into Active Pigeon (Option for the backbend)
  • Exhale – Lower down swing back forward into Staff
  • Inhale – Staff
  • Exhale – Swing your legs into Active Pigeon (opposite side)
  • Inhale – Active Pigeon
  • Exhale – Swing back forward
  • Inhale – Staff
  • Exhale – Forward Fold (or Repeat)


That’s about it folks!  I’ll wrap this up with a little more info on how each of these steps tapped into the therapeutic benefits I outlined in the beginning:

  • Upward Staff Transition into Active Pigeon
    • Active Range of Motion for your hips
      • This particular transition helps to increase your ROM through facilitating your hip muscles to help swing you around and lift you up into the pose
        • When you progress and possibly no longer use your hands (or only minimally use them) this means that your hips are really strong, mobile, and stable!
  • Active Pigeon
    • Hip Stability, Gluteal Muscle engagement, Spinal Extensor Muscle Strength
      • The hip lift and upright chest in Active Pigeon helps:
        • Engages all the small stabilizer muscles of your Hips
        • Concentrically contract back leg Glute, and Eccentrically contract front leg Glute
        • Promotes strength in the muscles along the back of our spine to keep us upright (especially if you progress into lifting your arms).
  • Active Hinged Pigeon
    • Transverse Abdominal Trunk Stabilization
      • The action of rooting your fingertips into the ground and then pulling your hands towards towards you engages this extremely important deep core muscle.
        • Leads to better core strength, shoulder mobility, & trunk stabilization
  • Active Side Stretch Pigeon
    • Hip Mobility & Thoracolumbar Fascia Stretch
      • This stretch encourages your hips to increase their range of motion by moving into an isometric external rotation stretch of your Figure 4 leg.
      • The lean to the side also helps lengthen the Thoracolumbar fascia along your back, which improves it’s ability to glide and transmit force across your body
        • This is extremely beneficial for back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, etc.

It’s pretty crazy how great this little series can be for your whole body.  Try it out and be sure to email me or comment below if you have any questions!


Be sure to let people know about this when they ask you how your hips and core got so stable and strong 😉


Dr. YG

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