My knees felt super sore in Yin Yoga today. I looked around me and everyone else seemed fine, all folded over in Pigeon Pose as if their legs had no bones whatsoever. And I wanted to be like them? I thought, I should be able to do this, no problem, shouldn't I? After all, I teach Yoga so how embarrassing would it be not to be able to perform a beautiful Eka Pada Rajakapotasana? What would that say about me? Am I a fake? An imposter at Yoga (this so-called non-judgemental, non-competitive practice). I carried on moving through the sequence with my fellow yogis, while my knees told me something was wrong.
My Dad has recently had a knee replacement and is about to have op number two, and my uncle has alignment problems with his knees - once being told he could end up in a wheelchair. They have both learned the hard way how important it is to look after your knees. It seems I'm definitely a Daddy's girl when it comes to knees - thanks Dad. Tight tendons with a tendency to lock painfully, and inconveniently, in cinemas, on car journeys and long-haul flights. I think about this, and my frustration with my rebel knees melts into the mat. I feel a sense of softening and care fill its place. I lift up on to my forearms, to my palms, and ease the pressure with a sigh that could have been released directly from my grateful knees to my windpipe.
Nobody pays me any attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the woman next to me lift onto her hands too. It feels good to find my own mould within this asana, away from those feelings of should and must, and the pull to look the same as everybody else.
It's only as we unfurl into savasana that my mind settles upon the realisation that Pigeon pose, plus my knees, taught me a valuable life lesson today: to take a closer look at 'should' and 'must', and to trust in my own way of doing things.
Are your knees trying to tell you something? Here is a modification for Pigeon to allow you to find your mould, your way.
Upside Down Pigeon
• Begin lying on your back with one knee bent
• Gently bring the other knee towards your chest and carefully place the ankle of the lifted leg over your knee Reach your hands either side of the grounded leg and clasp the back of the thigh or front of the shin (you could use a small towel or strap to help with this)
• Keep your head and shoulders on the ground
• Slowly draw your grounded leg in towards your body until you feel a deep stretch in your floating hip and buttock.
• Breathe deeply and focus on relaxing into the stretch
• To get a deeper stretch, try to open your floating knee away from your body as you draw the other leg closer.
Miriam Christie is a portfolio-careerist, dividing time between teaching Yoga and Pilates, blogging about health and wellbeing, training in humanistic integrative therapy, mental health campaigning for campaigntoendloneliness.org and public relations for career coaching organisation careershifters.org