Where for art thou , Kapotasana! A guide to the pigeon posture for folks with stiff backs.
Where for art thou , Kapotasana!
(for those peeps who read this blog and don’t do yoga , this one’s probably not for you – it’s a bit of a how to do a certain yoga posture – with a few crap matt ryan style jokes thrown in)
“How do I do Kapotasana?”
“I hate Kapotasana..”
These are a few statements & questions I’ve had from students over the years. And I understand totally where people are coming from as I had similar outbursts (usually to myself) when I first started doing the Ashtanga Intermediate (second series) sequence many moons ago. And we’ve all been on the you tube tutorials and watched how those people with a rubber band for a spine effortlessly glide into grabbing their ankles without even breaking a sweat (or wind) and we breathed a very heavy sigh of dejection! Why is it that people who do these tutorials never think about people like us- us poor sods with an iron rod for a spine huh? Well good people of a metal vertebrae disposition – this one’s for you!
So let’s get this out the way first …YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE ABLE TO GRAB THE ANKLES TO DO KAPOTASANA – got that? Good – let’s move on. So what I noticed when I first started to do kapo was that I never in a million years thought I’d be able to walk my hands in towards my feet , let alone touching the feet (or grabbing ankles) . I never really had a teacher who could show me any tricks of the kapo trade so I had to think on my feet (well knees) how I could work towards this.
I noticed that time and time again when I reached my hands back over my head and down towards the floor , it felt like my hands were in a different time zone to my feet and despite trying to walk my hands towards my feet I’d be able to walk them maybe 1.5 centimeters max each time. Kapo became an obstacle of my mind just as much as my body. I’d be doing the first couple of postures of the second series and I’d be thinking ‘shit its kapotasana soon’, my whole body would start to tense up – and that’s even before I’d got to the bloody posture.
So slowly I started to change my mental approach before my physical one. I decided that my hands would go as far as they would go, and that would be ok – no hissy fits, no kapo crying just ‘it is what it is’. So far so good – that’s stage 1 by the way – chill the hell out! Accept wherever your hands are – even if it’s nowhere near your feet – that’s 100% ok – this is your version of Kapo , it’s all good.
Then I noticed when I was leaning back with my hands in the air, I’d be leaning way way way too far back – it became apparent to me that no amount of blood sweat and tears would help get my hands towards the feet beyond the 1.5cm max. Hhhhmmm so I decided to change my kapo intro (stage 2 coming!) I would start by doing ustrasana (again) as a preparation for kapo , I would take 10 maybe 15 breaths in ustrasana working on pushing my hips forward and my sternum up ( see photo above) – keeping the posture ‘active’. It’s very easy to allow ustrasana to be ‘passive’ ie a posture to relax into – well don’t do that y’hear! Keep it alive-strong quads baby and keep that sternum lifting! What I realised that if I stood any chance of walking my hands towards the feet I’d need to keep the hips forward by using my quad & lower back muscles and chest bone staying lifted ! I then did this weird thing with my hands (stage 3 – see photo below) Not sure how I came up with the hand thing, maybe I was itching the back of my head or something – anyway I then interlinked my fingers and cupped the back of my head started to lower my body parallel to the floor – for about another 10-15 breaths. Bringing the hands to the back of the head like this (and then lowering the upper body back and parallel to the floor) helps to anchor the upper body and bring some weight to it so that you can work on creating the extra strength and flexibility to the lower back muscles so that they are strong and flexible enough to support the back when you eventually start to walk the hands in towards the feet without collapsing. My own particular method from here on in, is to bring the hands down to the floor then walk both hands together as far as I can towards the feet. At this point I walk my right hand in to grab the right ankle first then finally walk the left hand the last few inches to take the left ankle. As I just mentioned this is my own particular method once the hands are down to the floor – you can try this way or maybe develop something that might suit you better– left hands first maybe or both hands together etc etc.
Yes I know what you’re thinking and yes I was bloody knackered by this point and sometimes I’d have a quick time out before I got back to it. Then after stages 1 ,2 & 3 I would reach for the floor and even though my hands were kind of going to the same time zone as before I felt that the warm-up prep I had done was making my lower back muscles strong (as well as flexible, which would allow the spinal support necessary to be able to walk the hands in without collapsing which was the fundamental problem in the first place ) and I was able to keep the hips pushing forward, sternum staying lifted (thus creating space in the lower back) and start the long and winding road of hands to the feet. This was a very slow process, BUT slowly slowly my hands went beyond the personal best of 1.5 cm and one day I touched my toes – hallefeckingluiah. I carried on and I kid you not – video below to prove I am not talking crap I am now able to grab my ankles – and all this with a metal rod for a spine.
So get to it – have a good one – in fact can I just say this, I really don’t like this new (?) phrase that everyone is saying – ‘Have a good one’ – eh? – have a good one what? Doesn’t make sense mate – when did the far more appropriate and sensible phrase ‘have a nice day’ get replaced with ‘have a good one’? Did I miss a meeting…..