Why Start in Pigeon?
by Abbie Galvin
August 6th 2012
Laura was new to my Saturday morning advanced class. She cited several well known NYC yoga studios where she has practiced yoga for 13 years. As the room settled down and class began I asked the students to begin the practice in a pigeon. Laura, our guest student, balked at this plan and announced that she has never started class in a pigeon, and that she requires sun salutations and warrior poses before she demands so much out of her hips, at which point, she left. At that moment I surmised she was having an emotional reaction, so any theoretical explanation I would have given her would not have been useful. But since any one person’s doubt can lead to an insight for all of us, here are some thoughts.
The body is your house. You can start in any of its rooms to clean it out, and make it function more efficiently. You can start by warming up the whole house (body) making it fluid and available for the work ahead. You can open lungs (windows) first in order to initiate your breath and get a cross breeze, so that breath and energy move through through smoothly. Or you can start in the basement (your lower body) to ground the practice in your stability (kidneys). This is similar to establishing the foundation of a building. Starting practice in a pigeon allows each of us to orient ourselves in the center of the pelvis, with the pubis forward, the coccyx behind and buttock bones east and west. When we begin this way, we establish our ground of being as we make contact with our perineum to the floor, essentially plugging ourselves into the big socket of the earth to find the stability and safety found in the lower body. This practice sends a current up to the upper floors which develops our capacity and our vision.
It is a possibility that Laura did not feel safe. Starting in her hips was counterintuitive to her. . If Laura could go into any yoga class and do whatever is asked, this is the nugget she could have taken away with her: to engage in therapeutic or spiritual work is itself a counterintuitive process. It is making choices that contradict our habits. In this way you, the student, become the person who benefits from the practice rather than the practice conforming to what ever suits you the student.