Elevated Half-Pigeon with Twist

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Exercise of the Week

Today’s exercise is a multi-planar movement designed to address multiple areas at once that can be involved in causing back pain and inhibiting optimal movement of the spine.

Elevated Half-Pigeon with Twist, addresses hip external rotation while releasing both sides of the Quadratus Laborum (QL on either side of the low back) and training thoracic spine rotation to avoid low-back compensatory pain. The low back is not designed for rotation, so it is important to have a mobile mid-back.

Tight hamstrings are often blamed for hampering movement and causing pain, including back pain. However, the blame is often misplaced when a forward-tilted pelvis (anterior tilt) is pulling the hamstrings into a lengthened and inhibited state. By addressing pelvis position – in this case, the front leg keeps it neutral -we can also address hamstring tension and hip external rotation. Thus, we can provide relief while also retraining movement for pain prevention.

  1. Grab the handles of a chair or the sides of a bench.  Pull one leg forward and move your foot across to the opposite side to mimic the position of half-pigeon. This half-pigeon will be elevated which will help it be more accessible to most and also block the hips from coming out of neutral.
  2. Place a block or blanket under your knee if your knee does not rest on the chair or bench.
  3. Keep your back toes turned under and straighten your back leg as much as possible to lengthen the hamstring on that leg.
  4. Rest in this position for 3 to 5 complete breaths. Try to release into the pose.
  5. Once you feel like you are in your greatest passive range of motion on the front leg, take another big inhale. Remember to move your ribs laterally on that breath.
  6. Now take the arm on the same side of the front leg and, as you exhale, reach that arm behind you twisting your thoracic spine as your chest turns away from the front foot. (So right foot forward, right hand reaches back, chest twists right.)
  7. You can also drop your back knee toward the floor and then lift the arm of that back leg side. Then reach your arm up and over to the opposite side getting a nice side stretch.
  8. With the back leg dropped, you can also fold forward over the front foot on the opposite side and get a deeper stretch in the hip of the lifted leg.

Give these moves a try and tell me what you think. This is a great move to do in an airport or on a break from the car when traveling.


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