Many yoga students are appalled when asked to start a yoga class in a pigeon pose. Some have been taught that before setting up any pose, one should "warm up" with 108 chatarungas, sun salutations or with a good stretch. At Katonah Yoga we work in the bones and joints, the structure, and the best way to warm them up is to fold. A pigeon establishes one's ground of being.
One's ground of being starts from ground zero; the perineum making contact, plugging in and finding the ground. Your legs are the pillars of your perineum. Think of the right foot as the male root, the left foot as the female root so that your perineum is like the third foot which is you; the integration of your male and female aspects, your personal ground.
The perineum for women is located between the pubis and anus - it's the opening of the vagina. The perineum for men is between the coccyx and the genitals. The lower body, one's pelvis, is your stability. It's like the foundation of a building, or the root of a plant; it sets up a pattern that all future growth follows. It is by making contact, perineum on a surface, that you substantiate yourself.
If you were a radio, you would ground your wires in order to move your current (energy) through, plugging it in (lower body) before using the dial (the upper body) or setting up the antenna (your head). You wouldn't build the penthouse without building the foundation first. By establishing a ground, descending into the depths becomes a requirement for ascending to ones heights. So why try to turn the radio on before plugging it in?
Grounding the lower body in a pigeon pose allows us to orient ourselves in time and space. Like a clock, if the perineum is the center, the pubis is 12:00, the coccyx is 6:00, the right hip is 3:00 and the left hip is 9:00. By orienting our lower bodies within a wide circumference, we can find weightlessness in our upper bodies; which is how we get the yummies out of the pose.
A pigeon struts around in a backbend, a body lifting off and taking flight. A backbend is the pubis, navel and sternum coming forward and up. Consider the front body is one's potential while the back body is the past. In order to move forward in life, to take flight, one sets up their memories (the back) to support the future (the front). One does not change themselves by manipulating the past, or by bending back. It is the front body substantiated by the lower body, where one begins to come forward into the future
Therapeutic and spiritual work is often counterintuitive. If we knew how to change ourselves, how to have full lungs, a voluminous heart and liver that filters, we would have done it already and we'd all be well adjusted and we wouldn't need yoga. But real transformation comes from knowing your own blind spots, opening up a field of awareness that is unknown to you and making choices that contradict your habits. In this way you, the student, become the person who benefits from the poses rather than the poses conforming to whatever already suits you.
By conforming to the formal practice, the student gains an awareness of the personal propensities that keep him or her from living consciously. Thus to start a practice in a pigeon we emulate this bottom feeding bird by substantiating our roots, which enables us to embody their avian nature in order to rise above ourselves so that eventually we can all dwell in the field of the imagination, which is the purpose of it all.