Deer Pose (Mrigasana)

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Deer Pose, Mrigasana

Mriga (deer) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Yin Yoga Deer Pose

Pose Type: Balancing, Restorative, Seated

Difficulty: Beginner

image of a woman in black yoga clothes doing deer pose

Find a gentle release in your hips with the asana inspired by the loveliest forest creature.

Deer Pose Fundamentals

Dear yogis, meet Deer Pose – a perfect restorative moment in the harshness and business of the modern world. Both on and off the mat – we are living in a period where we’re constantly pushed over our limits, and forced out of our comfort zones. 

There is time and space for everything, including the growth mindset. But sometimes, really, we just need to relax. And that’s where Deer Pose comes in. 

This asana comes from the Yin yoga system, as a gentler alternative to Pigeon Pose – or Swan Pose. The back leg is bent, which lessens the hip stretch. The pose still offers tension release and will improve your flexibility.

But more important than anything – it will give you a moment to stop. And breathe.

In Yin yoga, we are holding asanas for a couple of minutes, trying to be completely still. This can be difficult with many asanas so we tend to force it, which defies the purpose of the yoga style.

The idea is, physically, to completely relax to target the deeper tissues of the body, and mentally to learn to be still, passive and to surrender.

In this fast-paced world, this is more difficult to achieve than it seems, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And Deer Pose gives everyone an opportunity to practice – beginners and experienced yogis alike. 

Deer Pose Benefits

  • Stretches and lengthens the hip flexors, glutes, quads, psoas, knees, lower back, and neck.
  • Can be particularly helpful for those sitting for long hours, both because of the hip stretch and the gentle twist. 
  • Gives you an opportunity to practice both internal and external rotation of the hips at the same time – perfect for a shorter routine.  
  • If you still want to do deep hip openers, Deer Pose is a great preparatory asana
  • Opens the chest in a gentle way and encourages deeper breathing. 
  • Has a relaxing effect on both the body and mind – you can use it to unwind after a long day and prepare for sleep
  • Targets the deeper tissues of the body, which keeps our body supple and prevents injury which is a result of lack of mobility.
  • Targets the liver and gallbladder meridians, and also gently compresses the internal organs of the abdomen, so it can help improve the functions of these organs and systems. 
  • By releasing the muscles around the pelvis, it can help with menstrual cramps.
annotated image of a woman in black yoga clothes doing deer pose

How To Do Deer Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Begin in Butterfly (Bound Angle Pose) – sitting on the floor with the knees bent and the heels touching in front of you.
  2. Leave one leg as is, and swing the other behind you, still keeping it ent.
  3. Ideally, both legs sit at a 90-degree angle  – and the feet are pointing to the opposite sides of the body. However, this often isn’t possible due to a lack of flexibility or anatomy, so adjust the pose to your body.
  4. If you want to practice in a yin-like fashion, hold the pose for between 3 to 5 minutes. For a quick stretch and release, hold for a minute.
  5. Slowly come back to Bound Angle Pose and repeat on the other leg for the same amount of time. 

Tips And Tricks:

  • This pose sometimes causes discomfort in the knees. If that’s the case for you, you can place a folded blanket or a cushion beneath. If that still doesn’t help, you maybe don’t have the right bone structure for the pose. Don’t force it – just choose a different asana instead. 
  • If you aren’t able to place both hips on the floor, place a cushion underneath for support
  • Keep the hips grounded – it might be necessary to pull the feet closer toward the body to achieve this. 
  • You can twist towards the back foot to deepen the twist – rotate to the opposite side of the foot. You can stay up or combine the twist with a fold. 
  • Once you find an appropriate depth of the pose and have done all the adjustments, try to hold it as still as you can for some time. Back away if you feel any pain, and use your breath to help you stay present.
  • Yin yoga is slow – but not easy. Use all the props you need to be able to hold this pose for some time. 

Deer Pose Variation:

Deer Pose Variation: Torso Variations

You can stay up – and face the front in this pose if you solely want to work on the hip opening. But you can also do other shapes with the upper body. 

For example, you can twist to the side of the front leg. Stay up or fold to the side – and grab the thighs or feet to help you with the twist.

For a more passive version, fold forward over your top leg. Sometimes, this causes us to lose the sensation of the stretch – so adjust the position of the torso to still feel the opening in your hips. 

You can also combine the two variations. Just make sure you repeat the same steps for approximately the same amount of time on both sides.

Deer Pose Variation: Swan Pose

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes in sleeping swan pose

Deer pose is a more gentle version of the Pigeon Pose, which is called Swan Pose in Yin Yoga.

Therefore, you can use the Swan Pose as a variation for Deer Pose whenever you want a deeper hip stretch. 

For Swan Pose – you’ll fully extend the back leg while keeping the front leg in the same position as you would for Deer Pose. Read the full guide here. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Leaning into one hip. It is common to lean into the front hip in this pose, but we want to sit on both sitting bones. First, gently move the other hip back to the ground. If that’s too difficult or you can’t do it without pain, place a cushion underneath or move the feet closer to the body. Just don’t force it – this pose is a bit more challenging than it seems. 


Avoid this pose in case of any issues with the knees, whether it is arthritis, surgery, or injury. Also avoid if you have injury in the hips, hamstrings, spine, ankles, and lower back. 

Related Poses

Swan Pose

Sleeping Swan Pose

Eye Of The Needle Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Easy Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Hero Pose

Counter Poses:

Windshield Wipers

Happy Baby

Bridge Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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