Pigeons and pull-ups

Yesterday, I went to Thrive Yoga and took a class with Susan Bowen. It tested my physical limits, but there were other issues at stake. My intention for the month has been “exploration with playfulness” in my approach to poses and flows. Well, my practice seemed to tilt towards “lost with fidgeting.” I was down in pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), a tough pose for my tight hips, and I could never settle into the pose. I pulled and tugged on my legs, and waded my mat up with the tension.

When I was a kid, I went to the YMCA for gym classes. We had to do pull-ups. I could not do a single one — I’d contract all my muscles in my body with my effort, but would not move an inch. The instructor kept me — the only kid — after class until I did one. My father finally got tired of waiting and took me home. We put up a bar in the kitchen doorway so that I could practice. It was not that I had insufficient strength; I just did not know how to contract the right muscles in my arms to pull me up towards the bar.

Sometimes, I feel as if I were 10 again — trying to pull myself into a pose, but failing to isolate the right muscles to get the job done or contracting indiscriminately and blocking movement. But yoga has an “easy button,” like in the Staples commercial. As my mentor says, the only class requirement is to breath.