The Perfect Body for Yoga

It was Pigeon Pose that did it. In particular, the pesky King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, and yes, I had to look that up!) – the full expression of pigeon, arms reaching back over the head to gracefully cradle the back foot which is ever-so-gently touching the back of the head. It’s a beautiful pose to see. I can’t freaking do it! I can’t even sit with both hipbones square on the ground; my pigeon looks like she’s been loading up on the breadcrumbs and then had a few too many drinks, tipping awkwardly to one side. I call her “chunky drunken pigeon.”

The Powers That Be have gifted me with many attributes, some of which I am profoundly grateful for, and others that I endure with a reluctant affection. I love my large breasts but I do wish I could remove them for certain activities, such as yoga and horseback riding.

But then my bubble butt would just stand out more.

As I approach my own yoga teacher training, I wonder: am I built for yoga? I’m not a young, lithe, boyish sylph of a girl. I’m voluptuous like a 40’s film star, and yoga has made me muscly on top of all that. I’m in my fourth decade of life. (The latter part of it!) And here’s the part that scares me:

I can’t do all the poses.

There. I said it. And I wonder if a teacher who can’t demonstrate a pose can really tell students how to do it without showing it? There are poses I rock at. There are some I just can’t do. Does it matter? Would it matter to me if I were taking my own class?

The teacher showing us King Pigeon could do it. So could another girl – young, blonde, and built like a dancer. I watched her, jealous, until she looked over at me and gave me a radiant smile. She was happy, and I was happy for her as I wobbled out of drunken pigeon.

I’ll keep trying, keep practicing. But I can’t change my body type, and I can’t rewind the clock to take away a decade or two. I am who I am as a yogi and as a woman. Yoga keeps me strong and flexible and sane. My love for the art and practice of yoga will shine through, I know.

Maybe I can just bring in a picture of King Pigeon? And if I see any Drunken ones, I’ll smile and understand.


About catnipkiss

I am a writer who is working on a travel memoir. I write about issues that speak to my soul: love, sex, yoga, spirituality, body image, dating and friendship, and more as it comes up! I love comments - thanks! What would YOU like to explore?
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9 Responses to The Perfect Body for Yoga

  1. harriet bissell says:

    One of the best things about yoga is that you only ‘compete’ with yourself. We are all different in mind, body, spirit. You try to access the best..YOUR best…in all ways. Throw in a little gratitude for all that you CAN do, smile at yourself (you do that well!) and Breathe! If a teacher can manage to pass that kind of attitude on to her students, what a gift to be able to give.

  2. The most important thing that should be taught during teacher training is that yoga is NOT = asanas. Even if you can do any posture on this planet, you might be at the very beginning of the yogic path. I had incredible teachers who said “sorry, cannot do full split – does it matter?”, and that’s the right attitude I think. Yoga in the West is just so far removed from the traditional spiritual practice it’s meant to be.
    Don’t worry about that pigeon, really! Oh and taking too much pride in your own practice is not something that’s encouraged either… 😉

    • catnipkiss says:

      Thanks for the solid advice! I do feel incredibly good when I can do a pose to full expression (is that too much pride?) – I can do Wheel! (but I can only hold it about 5 seconds max…) and I am working on Crow and Headstand. I hope that my upcoming training will encompass all parts of yoga, not just the asanas! Thanks for the response! – Cathy

  3. Rich K says:

    You don’t have to be able to do every pose in order to teach yoga. You just have to be able to know what it should look like, how to walk people in and out of it, and how to help people whose poses might be on the chunky, drunken side (props and such). Just don’t demo the poses you can’t do!

    Good luck in your teacher training! I hope it is as cathartic an experience as mine was.


    • catnipkiss says:

      thanks, Rich. I want to teach children and seniors eventually (hopefully they won’t be critical!) And since the training is in Costa Rica, how could it go wrong? Thanks for stopping by! – Catnip

  4. brett says:

    hey cathy, i read this post on elephant journal and was compelled to check out your blog. as a yoga teacher and a man, i have been constantly challenged by my own lack of flexibility in certain areas. king pigeon – no problem; seated forward fold – big problems. what was emphasized to me as a student and in teacher training and what i emphasize to my students is that there are many different body types and not every pose works for every one and some of them you won’t even like; that a sense of humor is important and a sense of compassion for oneself is critical; and that ultimately, there’s nowhere to get to. if you reach the perfect expression of a pose – great! now here’s a new variation. in a society that is deeply goal driven and perfection driven, i find that the most lovely thing i can give my students is a class and experience that is not only neither of those things, but that laughs at them openly.

    • catnipkiss says:

      I love to get a man’s perspective on all this. Of course, bodies are different (male/female, big/small, etc) and we should not expect perfection of ourselves or of students. Laughter in class? How cool is that!! – Catnip

  5. As a teacher it saddened me when students were not able to get to the ‘full pose’ and they themselves felt unworthy, incapable, not strong enough, etc. So, I developed a methodology that allows students to celebrate each step of the journey toward the full pose. I start with a Diagnostic to determine what might be holding them back. I offer them Skill Builders that help them practice with proper alignment and actions of the pose. Then there are Pose Variations that are equally as beautiful as the full pose. The Pose Variations carry the same pose elements of the full pose so students get the feel of the beautiful energy carried in the pose. Now every student reaches their ‘full pose.’
    I produce videos now, showing this methodology. I call it Asana Diagnostics. Each month I come out with a new video – I have 12 in the works. One of which is Mermaid II. It is not Eka Pada Rajakapotasana with the arms overhead, but you’ll be able to see how to break down the lunge which will help you in that pose. When it is released next month, I will send you a copy. Many blessings for sharing your wisdom with your students. You are an inspiration to them, no doubt.

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