Here's why your hips may feel tight in half pigeon pose, plus tips and anatomy to deepen your pigeon and understand your body in this asana.
Often hips are tight due to internal rotation of the hip from sitting or general stillness for periods of time.
Since Pigeon Pose is an external rotation, it can be a very deep stretch if you've been sitting or not-too-active.
ANATOMY OF PIGEON POSE
Your hips can internally and externally rotate by about 45 degrees.
Internal Rotation Muscles
tensor fasciae latae (outer hip)
glute medium and minimus (upper booty!)
adductors (inner thigh)
pectineus (upper thigh)
External Rotation Muscles
all 3 glutes
gemellus superior and inferior (responsible for hip movements)
quadratus femoris (side hip)
sartorius (connects from hip to knee)
For Beginners: Bring your front foot in half pigeon back towards your body. This is a more accessible stretch and is less pressure on your knee. Keep the front foot flexed to protect the knee.
To Advance: Bring your front bent leg parallel to the top of your mat. Play with adding a block or bolster under your front let to elevate it and deepen the stretch. Also play with adding a block or bolster under your back leg which deepens the stretch in a different way.
Tips, Modifications, and Alternatives for half Pigeon Pose
Block under hip - Place a block or bolster under your bent leg's hip to provide support for both your body weight and your mind. (A calm mind will relax into postures easier).
Inclined Pigeon Pose - Instead of half pigeon pose on the ground or on your back, use a couch, chair, or bed to bring your bent leg up with the pinky side of your foot on the incline. This mimics the external rotation without needing the hip mobility one may need for half pigeon on the floor.
Practice 90-90s - With both knees on (or near) the ground, and both legs bent at a 90-degree angle, try to sit both hip bones onto the Earth to externally rotate your hip.