Eka pada raja kapotasana, 1 leg king pigeon pose. I have always avoided the full expression of this shape. I generally visit it as a deep hip opener, but seldom much more than that. I've experimented with using a strap to access the back foot, but more as a means to open the quadriceps than to explore the realm of backbending. Lately however, I find myself magnetically drawn to this pose. I seek all the ways in which I can practice the pose without collapsing into my lower back and in a way that is painfree. But the desire to find this shape is driven from the inside out and as a result I am discovering so many new things about my breath and my body.
My yoga practice used to be about poses I could do and poses I couldn't do. I would get stronger at those that came naturally and I would avoid those that required deeper study and work. But now the unknowing is what lights me up. It connects me to my inner teacher, something that only comes as a result of direct experience. It's not always pretty, but it's practice.
I have been perplexed by the notion of stillness these days. Even in meditation where I am as still as I will ever be as a human being, I experience movement. I feel the vibration of my heartbeat, faithfully undulating through my body, sometimes so strong it seems I might fall over. And so I wonder, is anything ever completely still?
At the microcosmic scale, the atoms that make up all matter are buzzing around constantly. Even materials that are not alive in the way that we define living things, are vibrating and seem to have a quantum pulse.
So what does it mean to find stillness?
For me, it is about relative stillness. It's the quietude that arises as a result of deeper breathing. It's an an effort to be present and tune into the universal rhythm that awakens inside. Stillness is not necessarily the absence of movement, but perhaps it's the alignment of the energetic body with the physical body. In stillness, there is freedom from distraction and we find the release of disturbance. Stillness is that sweet feeling when you're no longer swimming against the current, but you're in the flow.
In the end, isn't that the essence of yoga? We employ the practice as an entry point to relative stillness.
In the chakra system of energetic anatomy, the base of the spine embodies the earth element, bhumi. The pelvis can be thought of as the earth of the body, connecting the trunk to the legs and supporting all forms of movement. This practice is a dedication to the earth both within and without - an expression of deep hip opening through forward bends, bowing in respect to this sweet little planet we call home.
H A P P Y E A R TH D A Y!
I spent a lovely wayfaring weekend in Hong Kong over the last several days which included a lot of walking, late nights and a very small hotel room with just enough space for the occasional forward bend. During this time, my yoga consisted of rolling around and stretching in bed along with daily seated meditation, but not much in the way of expansive practice.
Today's practice was an intentionally slow flow with an emphasis on hip opening as therapy for muscles and joints in contraction over several days of inaction. Not to mention a 4 hour flight each way. This is exactly what my body and heart were craving, sometimes it just feels so damn good to come back to the mat.