Yes, you have read correctly. This month, the humble pigeon has been on my mind. I have been photographing birds a lot, looking at city cranes (the metal ones) as inspiration for my poses and wondering how on earth that complex backbend in intermediate series came to be named kapotasana, pigeon.
If you have seen it, you have most certainly lifted your eyebrows. If you have done it, you have most likely struggled. This Ashtanga pigeon tends to put fear in us. If you have not seen it or done it but practice Ashtanga, you will have encountered a similar pose: one that challenges you on a deeper level, taking you further than thinking ‘oh well, I cannot do it’. One day, it creeps up on you. Perhaps it is a forward fold, a half-lotus or a bind.
Yoga has a tendency to find us and poses are amazing teachers. This pigeon called kapotasana teaches me to stay with discomfort. Outwardly, I can more or less do something that resembles the shape. Inwards is another story. I panic and I have to concentrate hard on the breath, the lift and the grounding, I have to focus my mind, not let it run into its pattern of wanting to get out of it as soon as possible. Stay, stay here, be present, live through this, it tells me.
Pigeon, in the Ashtanga form or otherwise, is complex because it requires apana, downward force and grounding, and the upward lift or flight of prana. Both at the same time. And for that, there needs to be a practical understanding of physics and anatomy. In Bilbao, Nines told me to only go to the final expression if I could have five slow full breaths (prana and apana) in each moment of the pose. It felt like walking a tightrope. It was very scary the first times and then, when I stayed, I also noticed something opening. Not the back, or the chest, but the awareness. A tiny bit, the faintest shine, but an opening nonetheless.
The road is long for kapotasana, I have a lot to learn and to practice. I still wonder at the fact that it is called pigeon (more on that below), but the pose has also given me more respect for the grey city birds. I feel they have a secret to tell.