by Chrisandra Fox Walker
Throughout history, human families have sat upon the earth and gathered around the fire to cook, share stories and food, and make offerings. From the simple daily eating rituals to seasonal celebrations, the “hearth” continues to serve as the center of the home, the source of physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment.
Whether we share a meal in a candle-lit restaurant, drink tea in our modern kitchens or sit around a fire log, the presence of physical warmth and fire helps us to connect beyond the surface and to share heart-to-heart moments with loved ones. The idiomatic expression “home is where the heart is” celebrates this internal space of warmth and recognizes that being at ease with wherever we are is our true home and hearth.
This month’s focus on Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-footed “King Pigeon” – or – “King of the Pigeons” Pose) will support the transformation of moving “from hearth to heart” in your body. Pigeon pose helps to open the hips and stretch the gluteals, stimulate circulation in the pelvic region, nourish the abdominal organs and thus aid in digestion and elimination, and provide an upward rising of energy toward the heart.
As important as the shape of this pose is how we exist within this shape. We can use this pose to help nurture a state of acceptance and relaxation in body and mind, especially as the tensions of the hips and pelvic region – where we may hold unresolved emotions, inertia and heaviness – are revealed and surfaced.
Practice holding your whole being with love and kindness, curiosity and breath – the way you would listen to a dear friend. The breath and the practice of witnessing without judging will help stoke the fires of transformation that help melt the resistances into a sweet nectar of love and compassion.
Come to all fours. Place your hands beneath your shoulders and bring your knees the width of your hips. Draw your right knee in and place it behind your right wrist. Bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. Extend your left leg, reaching the foot toward the back of your mat.
Place your finger tips near your hips and curl your left toes under. Then, press your left foot back, and lift your inner left thigh toward the sky to internally rotate the femur.
Keep the toes curled and hug both thighs into the pelvis, leveling the left and right frontal hip points with one another. Lift up through your torso and chest. Stay for a few breaths to keep the pelvis lifting up as you stretch the left leg back. Now, press the fingers or hands down, lower your pelvis to the floor, grounding weight through both thighs. Point the toes of your left foot.
If your right hip is high off the floor, place a neatly folded blanket, block or bolster beneath it.
Continue to lift the sides of your chest and draw your chest and head back. Avoid straining the neck.
Continue to lengthen and release the left leg to the floor, keep the pelvis even. Feel for the energy of the pelvis rising up toward the heart, release any excess tensions down toward the earth.
If you are steady here, bend your left leg, flex the foot. Reach back with your left hand and take hold of your foot. Bend your knee deeper, drawing your foot in toward your back. Lift your right arm up overhead and bend your elbow. Grasp the big toe of your left foot, dip your left elbow down alongside your ribcage, draw it out to the side and scoop your elbow up toward the sky, connecting both hands to your foot.
Loop a strap around your left foot and rest the long end of the strap above your shoulder. Once you are steady in the pose, take hold of the strap with both hands and bend your left knee, gradually walk your hands down the strap toward your foot.
You’ll feel the powerful lift in the chest and the backbend deep in the lumbar spine. Move your upper spine toward the chest, distribute the extension more evenly throughout your torso.
Gradually, release that effort, let go of the grip on your foot and lower your left leg to the floor.
From here, you can come into Sleeping Pigeon Pose. Walk your hands forward on the mat and lower your torso over your right thigh. Rest, allowing your back to release. Soften your eyes and the skin on your forehead, melting any resistance in the open spaciousness and glowing warmth of your heart.
Chrisandra Fox Walker teaches 5 weekly classes at Yoga Tree (click here for her schedule) and is a teacher of alignment and assists in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training. She leads the Heart of Renewal Retreats locally and internationally. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com.
Photography by Faernworks