The Pigeon

After dipping my toes in the world of extreme-heat fitness (aka hot yoga), I decided to do my knee bends the way nature intended: in a regular room with regular people and regular heat.

It turns out knee bends are hard, no matter the temperature of the room. And with each class and each dizzying downward dog I’ve felt a despairing sense of ‘this isn’t getting any easier’ while willing the minutes to fly by already; looking around the room to see if anyone else is wobbling profusely and/or plopping down on their mats the second the instructor gives the go-ahead.

Nope. Just me.

A couple of Saturdays ago I found myself trying a different class. It had been several weeks since I’d bent my knees, possibly because the last time I’d gone, there was a young guy who felt the need to ‘practice’ with his shirt off whilst wearing union jack swim trunks. This sort of thing did not go over well with the regular fiftysomething men in my Wednesday class. The ones who show up in unfashionable sweats or t-shirt-short combinations. ‘Thanks for keeping your shirt on, Len,’ the guy beside me thanked the guy three mats over when the shirtless wonder had left the room. For the fourth time in ninety minutes.

All this to say I was scarred by the experience; unable (or unwilling) to return for weeks afterwards. Which is why I found myself elbow-to-elbow with thirty other women on a Saturday morning.

After we’d downward-dogged it for a while; stretching limbs and muscles I didn’t even know I had, the sweet instructor announced she had a pose she wanted everyone to try.

Bakamakasana (or something like that. Seriously, does anyone besides the instructors actually know the Sanskrit names of the poses?)

It’s Crane Pose, for the unenlightened. Though, truth be told, I was still clueless. And then she demonstrated. Uh, come again? You want me to support my entire body weight with my feeble arms? While suspending my feet and knees in the air?

I laughed-snorted. Because what else is there to do in a situation like that? With numerous false starts and almost plummeting face-first into my mat, I managed to get my feet and knees off the ground….for half a nanosecond.

Good enough for me.

And then it was time for the Pigeon. Another departure from my repertoire of four poses.

I thought of the time the professor and I were in Florence dining at the rather pricey Alle Murate. I did my best to decipher the Italian menu but could not figure out one of the dishes. Piccione. I asked the waitress what it was. ‘It’s, how do you say, pie-jun.’ I racked my brain in an attempt to come up with an American-English equivalent to pie-jun but drew a blank.

Finally I got it: pigeon.

As I bent my knees at an unholy angle, I couldn’t help but think I’d much rather be eating a pigeon than imitating one.

‘How was it?’ the professor asked when I hobbled through the front door.

‘We had to do the Pigeon today,’ I explained.

‘Is it like this?’ he asked as he promptly got down on the floor, lowering his upper body towards the carpet with his arms extended behind him while doing his best pigeon call ‘cooo cooo coooo’.

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