April 2019: On Pigeons

April 2019 Newsletter

On Pigeons

Today, 7am, from 8 April 2019

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.

Laura x





What I have been reading
Gregor Maehle’s Intermediate Series book is wonderful if you want good cues for how to do the postures, and also explore the meaning behind them. This will help you to do the postures mentally, to embody the full asana and not just its outward form. He goes through the mythology of every posture and kapotasana, the humble pigeon, represents three forms. First, the son of Garuda, the king of eagles. Second, it is a divine form. In fact, Kapota is one of the thousand names of Lord Shiva, who received it as, in meditation, he was only living only on air and shrank to the size of a pigeon. Third, Kapota is also the name of a sage, who veers from his path and rapes an incarnation of the goddess Parvati. In his tale, Maehle writes, Kapota ‘learns to honour and respect each woman as the cosmic mother’. All this is what we embody when we are in the pose: The flight of the eagle’s son, the shrunk (and humble) divine form of Shiva and the honour and respect of Parvati.





What I have been listening to
Exploring difficulty and staying with discomfort is a meditative practice, something we enquire into and can be curious about. While I was training as a yin yoga teacher with Gem Maryan, we followed an 8-week mindfulness course. My favourite meditation was precisely one that approached this topic. It is short and the voice guiding it is wonderful and compassionate. It gave me a lot of courage to explore difficult places slowly and with confidence.





What I have been practicing
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that yoga can only happen when we don’t know. Kapotasana, as a deep backbend, is an invitation to explore the unknown, but that can be very daunting. As a teacher, I recommend students to befriend this slowly, rather that all at once and with brute force. One should invite skilfulness into kapotasana. After all, Krishna defines yoga as skilfulness in action. I have found that Rosina’s Breathing Bones classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Arlington are a fantastic way of befriending my body in these deep poses, allowing me to open slowly and with the breath. This specific stretch, which we sometimes do, is particularly delicious, but also a fabulous way to prepare for kapotasana, as Kino McGregor demonstrates. Keep the knees bent and the block on a smaller height for the first time as it is a deep passive stretch.Kino makes kapotasana look easy but it really is not!




Arlington Baths open classes
61 Arlington St, Glasgow G3 6DT
Rosina Bonsu’s programme

May–June 2019
 £11 | £9, included in all class cards


Now you have one more chance to practice with me. As well as Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings, I am offering Monday morning class. What a way to start the week! Remember, for assisted practice, you do not need to know or remember the sequence. That’s what I am there for!

Please note that Tuesday evening has moved to 10 minutes later (18.25) to accommodate the short courses before.


at the Arlington Baths

 £11 | £9, included in all class cards


These classes are for those who are complete pranayama beginners, practitioners who have done pranayama but don’t have a regular practice, or for those who have a yoga or meditation practice and want to delve deeper – all are welcome.

The breath is key to Ashtanga yoga practice. It allows for the deepening of postures and enhances their benefits. Each session will develop the tools and techniques required to help you set, refine and sustain an individual pranayama practice.

During these sessions you will:
* Learn about the breath – to observe it, to follow it and to enhance it
* Learn to deepen your breath, allowing you to become more aware and mindful, calm and focused
* Learn preparations and purification techniques that will help to boost the benefits of pranayama
* Learn more about how this practice relates to the Ashtanga yoga system.


Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
for staff and students only
Join the RCS Sport Facebook page

April–June 2019
£3 per class | £10 for 4 classes

Wednesdays 18.00–19.00: Ashtanga Yoga

Fridays 13.00–14.00: Ashtanga Yoga 











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