A Deeper Pigeon Pose

It’s been a while since I’ve had a consistent daily-ish yoga practice, but I did have one at one point, at a few points, for a long time, and, once I opened up to learning something, it taught me some useful stuff about my particular body and my particular mind and particular appetite and desires. But I had to arrive at the right teachers, and I had to become I guess the right student to learn from those teachers. For many years I just wanted to get a deeper pigeon pose. For many years I just wanted to float up to handstand in the middle of the room instead of needing that wall behind me. For many years I spent a lot of time holding my breath and muscling myself into poses to look as much as possible like the people I thought looked the way I was supposed to look. I thought that if I got better it would feel better and that the path to that was to work harder.

The vibe was effortful and self-loathing. No matter how limber or strong I got there was always someone in the room who was more limber and stronger. I got injuries, of course. I’d practice through them or take a couple of days off, not really long enough to heal, and be pissed at the pain, be pissed at myself for hurting.

I’m not sure I even heard the instruction to “listen to your body and do what’s right for you.” I’m not sure if I had heard it I would have understood what it meant or have been able to implement it.

Then one day I showed up in a yin yoga class, maybe by accident or maybe it was directly following a power flow something, and there was this quiet dude sitting at the front of the room. He talked us through some very odd poses, long holds in silence.

We were sitting in pigeon, for a while, and the teacher said something to the class like, “Notice if you are feeling discomfort anywhere. Consider choosing to do something to feel less discomfort. Let me know if I can help you.” And then I noticed that yes, I was feeling discomfort. I was effing hurting like hell and just sitting there in it.

And it was like a click moment where I realized that sitting in pain is not how I want to be spending my time and I don’t need to be spending my time that way to be a better yogini, or a better person. It’s actually the opposite. I raised my hand and I took the help. I got propped up on twenty-five thousand pillows and stuck my leg all not where it would be on the yoga babe poster and I sat in my pigeon. And I felt a stretch, I felt movement in my stillness, I felt my breath move in and out.

And then we went to the next pose and the teacher said something about figuring out whether you’re a pusher or a luxuriator and if you’re a pusher perhaps consider pulling back a bit and if you’re a luxuriator consider adding a bit more effort to it and see what happens. And after decades in rooms just like that one I saw myself and I chose something a little different from what I’d been choosing and it felt amazing.