Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pigeon Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

I have always been a huge fan of pigeon. I like how it stretches my glutes, inner thighs, and hips all in one while allowing me to relax. I know most people don’t find this stretch super relaxing, but I take a variation where I lie over my front leg and try to use the least amount of energy as possible. Pigeon was one of the first poses where I started to understand finding relaxation in the activation and activation in the relaxation. How many of us find that when we get into our pigeon our jaw is wired shut teeth gritting? That was me too. Trust me though doing this won’t help make the pose easier, or prettier, or feel better. Honestly it won’t have any positive impact on the pose. It will however have a negative impact. This teeth-gritting and tension is training your brain to automatically assume that you are doing something hard that you don’t like, which in the moment will simply make you more tense and possibly run into emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or stress, and that’s not fun. Overtime, as the pose becomes easier, your body will go into autopilot and still tense up and act as if you are having the worst time doing this pose which will ultimately make you dislike the pose regardless of whether you do or don’t.  So, if there is a change to make to your pigeon, the first change to make is to smile, and relax the jaw!

How To:
Let’s start from Downward Dog. Raise the right leg up into the air and then tuck the knee in towards the nose. Tuck the knee in tight and rotate the hips slightly as you lower the right hip to the floor and allow the back knee to come down as well. 
From here square your hips to the front of your mat extending the back leg long down the mat. Your right knee will be slightly out to the right with the knee bent. 
Take hold of your right foot and bring it up the left side of your mat towards the top so that your right knee is at about 90 degrees or parallel to the top of your mat.
Take a moment up right with the spine tall, or forward fold over that bent right leg taking your head to the floor.
If you folded forward, bring yourself back up right to come out of this pose.
Curl the back toes lifting the left leg up some, engaging it, and bring that foot in about 6 inches up towards the body- this will help you transition into your downward dog.
Lift your right hip up pressing through the arms lift the hips high to find downward dog.
Raise the left leg up into the air and then tuck the knee into the nose rotating the hips slightly as you lower the left hip to the floor.
Square the hips to the front of the mat and extend the right leg long down the mat. 
Take hold of your left foot and bring it up the right side of your mat towards the top so that your knee is at about a 90 degree angle, lining the shin up parallel to the top of the mat.
Take a moment up right with the spine tall, or forward fold over that bent right leg taking your head to the floor.
If you folded forward, bring yourself back up right to come out of this pose.
Curl the back toes lifting the right leg up some and pressing through hands, lift the left hip up and send the hips upward and back to downward facing dog.

Pigeon is actually quite a difficult pose to do, so here are some modifications you can take so as to help protect injury to your hips, or groin:

1. Take the pose on your back. Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Take your right ankle and place it on your left knee, pressing the right knee out to help open the hip. You can keep the left foot on the floor, or grab the back of the left knee to help tuck it in some more. Keep in mind though that as you tuck that left knee in that the right hip is not closing off, you really want to make sure that the hips is open here. The last option for the left leg is to straighten it up towards the ceiling giving you a double stretch 1 in the right hip, and 2 in the left hamstring. 

Doing this stretch on your back will help to alleviate pressure from the knees as well as lessening the stretch if your hips aren’t open enough for the full expression.

2. Add a prop!

Prop 1, a block. If you have trouble lowering your hip all the way down to the ground or keeping it there as you square off your hips, then you may need to lift it up some. Use a block to sit one hip on and elevate it so that your hips can be square and still stay in contact with something. So if your right leg is bent in front, the block will go under your right side to lift, and if your left leg is in front then the block goes under the left hip.

Prop 2, a bolster. Set your bolster up horizontally on your mat, and as you lower your hip into the pose let your hip settle on the bolster. (Depending on the length of your thigh, your knee may stay off the ground or not.) This will give you more lift than just a block as well as provide stability.

***If you don't have a bolster you can use a big firm pillow, or stack 2 blocks (shortest height to start) next to each other and lay a blanket or thin pillow over them

3. Tuck the front knee in. If you hip isn't happy with your front knee at 90, try bending the front knee more and allowing the foot to come closer to the torso. This will allow you to focus on the hip flexor stretch, allow you to feel more stable, and lessen the impact on the hip.

If you are someone who has really open hips and you want to get a little bit more out of pigeon, here are some modifications you can use to increase the intensity of the stretch. 

1. Mermaid variation
In the mermaid variation the back leg is going to get more attention directed towards a thigh and hip flexor stretch, as well as a mild open twist. Bend the back knee so your foot is up in the air (if the left foot is back use the left hand) and grab the foot allowing it to slide down to the crook of the elbow. Using the other hand, reach over the head and back joining hands for a bind.

2. Full King Pigeon
King pigeon requires a lot of stability, flexibility, and openness and strength in the shoulders and hips. From your pigeon bend the back knee so your foot is up in the air. Take your arms up and over your head reaching back for your foot. Once you have grabbed hold of your back foot, press the foot into your hands to gently pull the arms back and open the shoulders, and gently pull your hands in the opposite direction to help stretch the thigh.

3. 1/2 King Pigeon
The full king pigeon is a difficult pose, but you can try what I call a 1/2 king pigeon to see if you have the stability and leg flexibility/strength. From your pigeon, bend the back knee taking the foot up into the air. Keeping the fingertips on the floor take a back bend connecting the foot to the head, or as close as you can get. Hold here, while testing your stability, by lifting the fingertips off the floor for as long as you can hold.

Not quite ready for that kind of intensity? No problem, here are a few more options

Place a block or bolster under the back leg to lift it up a little higher. When you do this, it is important to make sure that the back knee is straight. This lift of the back leg will intensify the stretch to the groin, hip flexors, and thigh area.

Add a twist to your pigeon to help keep the hips square and open the front legs' hip. From your pigeon, twist towards the leg that is bent in front, lowering the opposite shoulder to the floor and extend the arm out (as you would in threading the needle). Your other arm will come over the head reaching out past the front of the mat, or bind by taking it behind the back and down the floor by the opposite hip.

·         Stimulates the internal organs
·         Opens the hips, groin, hamstrings. Open hips improve your posture, alignment and overall flexibility. Open hips also release the negative feelings and energy from your system since stress, tension and anxiety are often stored there.
·         Elongates the back and relieves pressure on the lower back and sciatica
·         Stretch deep glutes
·         Stretch groins and psoas (a long muscle on the side of your vertebral column and pelvis)
·         Relieve impinged piriformis and alleviate sciatic pain
·         Help with urinary disorders
·         For the athlete, this pose is critical to overall health, speed and agility. Open hips relieve the stress transferred to the knees when hips are tight. Less knee strain means a greater range of motion for the pivot sports such as tennis, basketball or soccer, reducing risk to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Clear hips also give the back a full range of motion. This helps athletes avoid lower back strains that often plague them. Flexible and aligned hips are essential for an athletes' best performance.

Contraindications: Consult your physician if you have any of the following, or if you experience any as a result of trying this pose.
·         A sacroiliac or back injury
·         An ankle injury
·         Certain knee injuries
·         Extreme tightness in the hip

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

12 cups of tomatoes
5 cups of water
2 cups mushrooms
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cups shredded carrots
1 small-medium yellow squash
1 small-t medium zucchini
5 cups of  finely chopped baby spinach
5 cloves of garlic
1 large yellow onion
1 1/2 cup olive oil
3 spoonfuls of  sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 large pinches of basil
6 1 ½ pint sized mason jars

Clean your tomatoes really well because we are using the skins.
Cut your tomatoes into 4ths and place them in a pot along with just enough water to match the height of the tomatoes (for me that was 2 cups) then bring this to a boil and let boil for about 10-15 minutes or until the skins of the tomatoes start peeling off naturally and the tomatoes become really soft.
While you are bring the tomatoes to a boil, and letting them boil, clean and chop up your mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini,  and onion. Mince your garlic, and add all of this into a bowl with your finely chopped spinach and shredded carrots.
Your tomatoes should have sufficiently boiled at this point, so turn off the heat, and bring out the mixer. Keep the mixer on a low setting and mix/blend your tomatoes together, into a soup like substance. Be careful to allow the pot to cool completely before mixing and not to wear white, seeing as the watery nature of the pot mixture will cause it to splatter a lot. Keep the mixer on a low setting to help keep the splattering down as well.
Once you’ve mixed your sauce to your liking, add your bowl of mixed vegetables, and throw in your olive oil, sugar, salt, and basil. Then mix this all together.
Set the heat on super low, add the lid, and let sit for 3 hours.
So because I use 1 ½ pint jars for sauce I don’t have a pot big enough to hold them so here is another trick for sterilizing jars: stick them in the dishwasher.  Granted I don’t use this method often, since I hardly ever use my dishwasher at all, but in cases where there are big jars, I need to modify. So set your dishwasher on to sterilize the jars (mine has sterilize as an option) at the end of the 3 hours of your sauce cooking.
Then slowly bring your pot to a boil, like really slowly, the time it takes for your dishwasher to run, and then pour your sauce into jars. Make sure when you take the jars out of the dishwasher that they are still hot, and haven’t had a chance to cool down yet.

I also do not use wax for these because I freeze them. If you want to freeze them, you may just make sure you are using a freezer safe jar and that you leave at least ½ inch at the top of the jar for the sauce to expand when frozen.