Once you’re comfortable with Pigeon Pose and can relax into it with your hips aligned, you can start having a go at Mermaid Pose and One Legged King Pigeon Pose!
For these poses, we need to focus on opening up the chest, shoulders and upper back, as well as working on backbends and stretches for the quads.
Standing in Mountain Pose, keeping your pelvis tucked in and engaging your abdominal muscles, clasp your hands together behind your back and pull your shoulder blades together, puffing out your chest and dropping your head back. You can also fold forward from the hips, letting your upper body hang down and gently bending your knees. Let your straightened arms fall down and gravity will help loosen up your shoulders!
Eagle Pose is a great pose to do in itself as you get to add flexibility to your legs as well as work on your balance, but you can incorporate the intertwining of the arms on its own to help loosen up the shoulders. Cross your arms over at the elbows, and try to line your palms up as closely together as you can manage. Then centre your palms with your nose, and lift up your arms to a comfortable height. Practice this on both sides, crossing the other arm over this time.
For a deeper stretch, you can twist from the waist a few times turning to both sides.
The classic tricep stretch! Lift up one arm and pat yourself on the back, bending your elbow so it faces the ceiling. Then gently apply pressure to your elbow by pushing down on it gently with your other hand. Then repeat on the other side!
Cow Face Arms
Again, we’re just taking the arm stretch from Cow Face Pose. Again, give yourself a literal pat on the back, and reach around with the other arm. Here, you’re aiming to be able to clasp your hands together, but it’s fine to just practice reaching for them if your can’t quite clasp your hands together yet.
Coming into Tabletop Pose on your hands and knees, bring your knees hip-width apart and your arms shoulder-width apart, making sure your knees are stacked underneath your hips and your wrists are underneath each shoulder. Tuck the pelvis under slightly and straighten the neck to start off with a nice straight spine.
On an inhalation, start to point your tailbone up towards the sky and look up, dropping your navel towards the ground.
Next, on an exhalation, tuck your pelvis in an bring your chin to your chest, arching your spine and pushing away from the mat with your palms.
Repeat the transition from Cow to Cat Pose a few times to work on spine, hip and neck flexibility.
As I mentioned previously, you can use this chest opener in a variety of other poses; in this case, a low lunge could be another way to open the chest muscles, as well as strengthen your back. Lifting the back knee up from the mat and bringing yourself into a high lunge adds more of a challenge to your balance and strength!
In a High Lunge position, bring the opposite hand from your leading leg down on to the mat, and twist from the waist, reaching up into the sky with your other arm so the arms are in a nice straight line. Pull your shoulder blades back and look up towards your hand. Remember to keep your back leg as straight as possible – we’re still opening up those hips!
Another twist in a High Lunge here, and more of a challenge for your balancing skills! Take the arm that’s at the same side as your bent front knee and twist from the waist, reaching towards the back of your mat whilst bringing the other arm towards the top of the mat. Keep your arms parallel with the ground, and if you’re feeling confident, have a look back towards your hand!
Now it’s time to start getting into Mermaid and One Legged King Pigeon Pose!
After sitting comfortably in Pigeon Pose for a few breaths and allowing your hips to relax into the pose, bend your back knee and take a hold of your foot using the hand at the same side as your back leg – you can keep your balance by bringing your other hand down on to the mat in front of you.
Gently start to pull your foot towards your body whilst keeping your gaze fixed forwards. You should feel some stretching down your quad muscles at the front of your thigh. Only stretch to a level that is comfortable for you – there shouldn’t be any pain involved in yoga! Listen to your body during your stretches, and if anything doesn’t feel right, release the stretch a little until you feel a bit more comfortable.
You can also use a yoga strap (or in my case, a scarf, they both work fine!) to bring your foot a little closer to your body, and it might be a little easier than reaching back for your foot initially. Just figure out what feels better for you!
Now you can attempt to take both hands away by reaching your supporting arm back and trying to find your toes! So if you’re in Pigeon Pose with your right leg in front, keep your left hand on your left foot, and try to reach your right fingers to your left toes!
One Legged King Pigeon Pose
IT IS TIME! Well, only if you’re feeling limber and ready for the final stage. Please don’t attempt this if you’ve still got some work to do in the previous poses – we don’t want any injuries!
If you can hold your left toes with your right hand, bring your left hand down on the mat for stability, and drop your head back, bringing the sole of your foot closer to your head. Once they touch, you’ve done it! Well done you 🙂
Finally, we can try one of my favourite yoga poses, Mermaid Pose. Bring your right finger tips down on the mat in front of you to support you, then try to hook your left foot into your left elbow.
Finally, slowly take your right hand away from the ground, and reach your right hand back and try to find your left hand. If you’ve made contact, try to hold on to your finger tips. Fix your gaze forwards, and keep your chest open and your right shoulder blade pulled back.
Voila – Mermaid Pose!
In all of the poses mentioned, make sure to practice for the same amount of time on each leg to avoid an unbalanced and misaligned body!
Have fun with the poses – after all, the best part is your journey and progress through the different postures, it’s not about fast-tracking your way to advanced poses. It’s a great feeling to see the gradual progress you make, and gives you a sense of pride and achievement for dedicating yourself to the practice. 🙂