Mermaid Yoga Pose - Pigeon Variation

How to Do Mermaid Pose
Mermaid Pose. Ann Pizer

Also Known As: Pigeon variation

Type of Pose: Hip opener, backbend

Benefits: Stretches the hips, quads, and shoulders

Pigeon pose opens up in stages. If you can't quite see how you'd get from the pigeon prep version you've probably done in yoga classes to the extreme backbend of full pigeon, mermaid pose provides the missing link.

There is one major alignment point that's worth going over. As you transition from the relaxed forward fold of pigeon prep to the more active upright versions of the pose (mermaid and full pigeon), you have to change the way that your legs are interacting with the floor.

In forward folding pigeon, your legs are basically melting into the floor as you try to release any tension in your hips. When you come upright, you need to change the trajectory of your legs from down into the floor to up toward the ceiling. This requires your to engage your thighs strongly and draw them toward one another isometrically. As you do this, your hips will probably also come further off the floor. That's ok. It gives your mermaid some stability so that you are not rolling onto and thereby resting on the butt check of your front leg. 

Even if you're not quite ready to move into mermaid, start to experiment with engaging your legs as described above. 


1. Begin in pigeon prep with your right leg forward. 

2. Bend your back knee (the left side in this case) and grab hold of your left foot with your left hand. 

3. Slide your foot into the crook of your left elbow. You can stop here or progress to the next step.

4. Reach your right arm straight up toward the ceiling. Bend your elbow, drop your right hand behind your head

5. Bring your hands to meet. Press the back of your head into your right arm.

6. Try not to fall over onto the right side of your butt. Keep your chest pointing toward the front of your mat.


Release your foot, slowly lower your leg with control, and repeat the pose with the left knee forward.

Beginners' Tips:

1. Stop after step two. Work on pulling your foot toward your body to stretch the quad.

2. Or, reach your right hand around the right side of your body to grasp your left ankle. With both hands holding the ankle, kick back into the left foot. 

Advanced Tips:

1. Mermaid pose is good preparation and point of entry for full pigeon.

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