Following up on yesterday’s post I want to write about knee pain in pigeon pose. The depth of pigeon pose is determined by how much rotation there is in the front hip socket. The knee, shin, ankle and foot should only go where the relative freedom of the ball and socket joints allow them to go.
There are many possible reasons for knee pain in pigeon pose but the pain often comes due to the alignment of the bones of the leg negatively affecting the ligaments of the knee. The knee is a strict hinge joint with no play side to side. The hinge needs to be maintained no matter how you place the leg in the pose. If someone is open in the hips they can move the shin towards the front of the mat and maintain the strict hinge of the knee because the free range of the hip socket allows for it. Any movement of the knee joint that is not a hinge is going to come at the expense of the ligaments of the knee.
There are many ligaments both inside and outside of the knee capsule that are providing stability to the joint. You have two ligaments on either side of the knee— the medial collateral and the lateral collateral ligaments—that you can actually feel with your fingers and sense the effect that the disparate movements of your leg has on them.
Place your fingers on either side of the knee and begin to hinge your knee and flex your ankle. You should be able to feel these ligaments dancing around under your fingers.
The position of the foot and ankle can play a role in knee pain in pigeon pose and you can use this simple experiment again in order to feel the effect of different foot positions.
With your fingers on either side of the knee again, if you point or flex your foot you should feel an even balance in the ligaments on either side of the knee. But if you sickle your foot and/or ankle you should feel that on one side the ligament will shorten while the other side lengthens.
I work with my foot flexed in pigeon for the most part but pointed is fine as well. The thing that matters most is that the hinge of the knee and the balance of the ligaments are maintained. The limitations of the hip and ankle joint will have a big affect on the depth of your pigeon pose.