During class on Monday night, I guided two of my yoga students (both women in their late forties) into one-legged pigeon pose. One of the women struggled and even winced a little as she settled into the pose. “Tight hips,” she explained. The other woman looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t get this pose. What’s the point?” When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that the pose was not challenging for her at all. “It’s boring. And it makes me feel fat.” (Side note: this student is –not by any stretch of the imagination– what you would call “fat.”)
Any yogi will tell you that there’s an emotional side to pigeon pose…the explanation being that this pose opens up our hips, a place in our body where we naturally store our emotions. Our hips and pelvis also make up the sacral chakra so that when these areas are stretched, emotions related to sexuality and intimacy can rise to the surface. Settling into a one-legged pigeon pose for any period of time often triggers the release of these emotions, whether they be sadness, anger, or insecurity. Most yogis will also attest to the fact that the longer you stay in the pose, the more you release.
In trying to help my student think more deeply about her reaction to the pose, I asked her if any other yoga pose made her feel “fat.” She shook her head. She understood that pigeon pose was helping her to bring to the surface her insecurities regarding her body image. She didn’t like the pose not because of how it made her feel physically (she admitted that it was not challenging/boring) but rather because of how it made her feel emotionally.
I then asked my students: “What is your pigeon pose in life? In other words, what is that thing or situation in your life that makes you feel bored, angry, sad, insecure?”
As they thought about their answer, I thought about my own. The act of staying in, not fleeing from, a situation that makes us feel “less-than” or uncomfortable is often the most direct way to learn how to release, let go, and abandon judgment. And the longer we are forced to stay in the discomfort, the more we will be forced to acknowledge our emotional baggage and climb out from underneath it.