Encyclopedia of Hip Stretches: Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose was the first hip stretch I ever learned about therefore it is here marking the first entry in the encyclopedia. I was drawn to this yoga posture because you were encouraged to take the position and hold it for a longer period of time. I really enjoy long stretch holds because they allow me to breath more deeply into the posture and relax my frame at my own pace. This allows me to come to a greater understanding of what it feels like when I hold tension in my body and conversely what it feels like when I release. Essentially this posture taught me how I “let go”.

We can store a lot of tension and trauma in the hips so be aware that you may have strong emotions that accompany this position or come after. This is totally normal, just allow the emotions to flow out of you. When you consistently practice releasing the tension and emotions from the hips it will become easier for you to both let go and keep your energy clear.

The Benefits of Pigeon Pose:

  • Stretching the Glutes, Groin, and Psoas muscles
  • Stimulate Internal Organs
  • Alleviate Sciatic Pain
  • Relieve Impinged Piriformis
  • Help with Urinary Disorders
  • Improves Posture
  • Releases Stress, Anxiety, Fear & Trauma
  • Relieve Back Pain
  • Reduce Chances of Knee Injuries
  • Aids in Digestion
  • Builds the Mental Strength to Endure Uncomfortable Situations

Contra-Indicated for:

  • Knee Injury
  • Sacroiliac or Back Injury
  • Ankle Injury

Let’s Do It:

I like to get into Pigeon Pose from a downward dog. Be sure to practice with both sides. In these instructions I’ll just describe the right side. From a downward dog, swing the right leg through between your hands and then lower your whole body while laying your right leg in front of you. Line up your right knee with your right hand. To adjust the difficulty you can change the angle of your leg by moving the ankle closer or further from your torso. Once you have found a suitable position (not totally comfortable, but not too unbearable) you can bring your arms forward and relax every muscle in your body, letting gravity do the work of stretching the hip.

You can spend some time just hanging out in this pose. I like to listen to my favorite song, which is about 3 minutes long, to time how long I should hold the stretch.

Variations:

If you are not able to get completely into this stretch, use a yoga block, pillow, blanket, or whatever you can to brace your body. You don’t have to be a yoga master to get the most from this stretch. The most important thing is to go at your own pace.

Other variations are ways to make this stretch deeper. You can move your right ankle further away from the torso, bend your left leg and grab ahold of your left foot, and even lift your body up and bend backwards. All of these are different ways to get more out of pigeon pose.

Partner:

In the Thai Massage practice, I perform what I call a “reverse pigeon” pose with the client. Starting with the client face up, place your right knee outside of their left hip. Create a table for their legs with your left leg. Drape both of their legs over your left leg. Then figure 4 their left leg. Create a straight line from your right shoulder, elbow, and wrist through their knee and pointing to their left shoulder. (remember not to place your hand directly on the knee. I usually place my hand just below the knee on their thigh). Lean forward and let gravity do the work of the stretch. For more leverage, you can move your anchor knee (right) further away from their body. To bring variation to the stretch for them, you can adjust the position of their ankle with your left hand. (Do not apply downward or leaning pressure with the left hand).

Interaction:

Let me know how your pigeon pose journey is going. Do you have any questions or insights you’d like to share? Please comment below or send an email to: firewalkerarts@gmail.com

References:

https://www.active.com/health/articles/pose-of-the-month-pigeon-pose

http://harmonyyoga.com/article-1

https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/hip-connections

https://www.doyou.com/how-to-do-pigeon-pose-for-everybody-26609/

Intro: Encyclopedia of Hip Stretches

This Encyclopedia of Hip Stretches is intended to be a comprehensive look at the mechanics of the Hips and how to stretch them at home. As more information becomes available, new blog posts will be released so please subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on the latest information. 

Creating this section of the blog was inspired by a desire to assist clients at home during Covid-19 and popular demand for at home hip stretches by Thai Massage clients. That being said, I prefer this to be an interactive platform. I want to hear your reflections on trying the stretches out yourself. Let me know what worked, what didn’t work. Ask questions that come up along the way and I will answer them as best I can either in the comments or through a new blog post.

We will cover:

Anatomy

Psychological/Metaphysical Connections

Chakra Connection

Static Stretches

Ballistic Stretches

Isometric Holds

Dance Moves

Disclaimer:

It’s important that you check with your medical doctor before engaging in any physical activities at home. Not all of the activities will be accessible for everyone due to medical conditions or physical limitations. Be an advocate for yourself in your practice and go at your own pace. I am not a medical doctor and cannot prescribe medicines or activities. The information gathered here is from research and hands-on experience with clients.

The most important thing to remember any time you are working with your body is to bring consciousness into the movements. Bring your awareness to what is happening inside your body. Describe the feelings in your mind to gain a deeper awareness of what it feels like to inhabit your body. Learn what your limitations are. Bring your breath into the art. Inhale positive energy, exhale negative energy. On the exhale lengthen and deepen your stretches. You will get out of the practice what you put into it.

How to Make Mint Cuttings

How to Make Mint Cuttings in Water or Soil

click the picture to watch the video

Watch the video!

The most ideal time to grow a new mint plant from a cutting is late spring and early summer. It is very easy to make a new mint plant from a clipping. Mint is a very prolific plant that will quickly spread and take over your yard. For that reason you may wish to keep it in a pot, or you can do like I’ve done in my yard and surround the mint with bricks. Whenever the mint starts to jump beyond the stone I simply transplant them back into the mint zone.

Before you start taking the cuttings you will want to gather all the materials:

  1. Potting soil
  2. Small planter pot with a drainage hole
  3. Clear glass or vase with 1” water in the bottom
  4. Scissors
  5. Root growth hormone (optional)
  6. Clear bin / Ziplock bag

In this video you will see me use chopsticks taped together to hold the mint slightly out of the water. This step is optional. You can just set the mint clipping into the glass of water and get the same results.

Now that you have all of your materials gathered, we will first show how to do the clipping directly in water. 

Steps for Making a Mint Cutting in Water

  1. Cut a mint clipping from the mother plant about 8cm (3-5 inches) in length from the top of the plant. You will want to cut the plant just below a node. A node is where the leaves are coming out of the stem.
  2. Next you will remove the leaves between the bottom node and the top node. Use a scissors to make precise cuts and avoid damaging the plant.
  3. (Optional) Tape the chopsticks below the first node to hold the clipping in the glass.
  4. Place the clipping in a clear container with about one inch of water in the bottom. Make sure that none of the leaves touch the water because they may rot.
  5. Set the clipping in bright, indirect sunlight. Replace the water if it becomes murky.
  6. When the roots are a few inches long, plant the cutting in a pot with potting mix

Steps for Making a Mint Cutting in Soil

  1. Put some potting soil into the small pot with a drainage hole. With your finger press a small hole in the center about 1” deep.
  2. Cut a mint clipping from the mother plant about 8 cm (3-5 inches) in length from the top of the plant. You will want to cut the plant just below a node. A node is where the leaves are coming out of the stem.
  3. Next you will remove the leaves between the bottom node and the top node. Use a scissors to make precise cuts and avoid damaging the plant.
  4. (Optional because mint grows so easily) Apply root growth hormone to the stem of the plant. Do this by first dipping the stem into water and then into the root growth hormone mixture.
  5. Place the root into the small hole in the potting soil and pack the soil in around the root. Add some water to the soil.
  6. Place the whole thing into a clear bin or enclose it in a ziplock bag. This will provide the plant with some humidity to grow.
  7. Set everything in bright, indirect sunlight. Water as needed but don’t over saturate. You can even water it by misting the plant with a spray bottle.
  8. When you see new growth on your mint clipping that means it worked. You can either leave the mint in this pot, transplant it to another pot, or plant it in your yard.

Extra Notes:

Some gardeners suggest using a specific soil for clippings such as: perlite, vermiculite, peet moss, or seed starting mix. I find that mint is very very easy to grow clippings from so it’s not very important what type of soil you use. The first year I tried this I used local Milwaukee soil which is very clay dense. That worked out just fine.

Some blogs suggested using a heating pad underneath your clipping to stimulate growth. I think this is a fantastic idea, especially if you are gardening indoors in the early spring or even winter. Again, I find mint to be really prolific so this tool was not even on my radar for this project.

I prefer using the soil method for clippings. Transplanting the plant from soil is less shocking to the plant than transplanting it from water. If you transplant from water, you may end up needing to transplant more than once and that is more shocking to the plant.

Camping During a Pandemic and Protests

Harrington Beach State Park Adventure (Belgium, WI, USA)

Due to the global pandemic and daily protests getting out of the city to reconnect with nature was absolutely necessary.

Milwaukee, the city I live in, is one of the most segregated cities in The United States and emotions have been high these last few weeks. As an empath the energies have been overwhelming. I really needed to get out of town for a while.

This was an amazing 40 mile bike ride to the Park. From downtown Milwaukee the Oak Leaf Trail runs north into the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. You ride these trails until arriving in Belgium where a right turn and 2 more miles gets you to the park.

I tried out some new camping equipment on this trip with the hope of finding lightweight gear for future trips abroad.

Fire Starting:

I had a magnesium stick for starting fires. I found this video which covered all the details of starting a fire with this tool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGo_Pxul1QQ

The main things to remember when starting a fire with a magnesium strip:

  1. prepare your fire in advance. You want to have all the materials ready to burn when you spark your starter material.
  2. Collect the magnesium bits on something like a stump, bandana, shirt.
  3. Protect the bits from the wind.
  4. Starting a fire this way will take some time, be patient.
  5. Practice doing this in a non-survival situation so you are familiar with how it works.

I also tried starting a fire with my glasses. This did not work like in the movies. I was not able to create a pointed reflection of the sun. I think my glasses may be plastic. I also tried the mirror that comes with my compass. That also did not work.

What I would recommend for fire starting is bringing a lighter (or two) and matches. Put them all into plastic baggies to keep them dry. These tools will be able to start many fires for a shorter adventure.

The magnesium strip doesn’t have to be stored in a plastic bag. It can be used to start 100s of fires. This would be more appropriate for a long term adventure.

Air Mattress:

I did a lot of research before deciding on the “Legit Camping Sleeping Pad”. My only criteria was to find something light weight that packed into a small space. It is 57cm/22.4 by 188cm/74in fully extended and packs down to 9cm/3.5in by 26cm/10.24 in. It weighs 1.1lbs.

Honestly of all the things that happened on this trip, the air mattress was the least of my worries. It was super easy to blow up and maintained firmness for the two nights I used it. I have a Tempur-Pedic mattress topper at home and this air mattress is comparable to that. I slept like a baby.

No Tent:

10 out of 10 would not recommend camping with no kind of cover. I was rather naive in believing that this experience would be similar to camping under the stars in the Mojave. It wasn’t. It was wet and cold. I was woken up by morning dew on my sleeping bag and started a fire to dry it off.

Taking advantage of this time awake in the middle of the night, I laid down on the picnic table and looked up at the stars. The view was breathtaking. So many bright lights in the sky, so far away in space put life into perspective.

Why is star gazing so much fun? It inspires this sense of awe and wonder. What is really out there? Why is that thing shooting across the sky? Is it an alien? Are humans alone in the universe? Are aliens laughing at us? Are they considering jumping in to help or are they watching and eating popcorn? Am I an alien? Would I be from Sirius or Pleiades? Does my tiny little life matter? Are the things I worry about really that important? There are just no words for how beautiful the night sky is. It’s breathtaking.

Camping by yourself:

The urban life has made me soft. I was scared of the dark, making up scary stories in my head and kind of a mess. Fearing for your survival when you face the unknown in nature feels different than facing the unknown during a pandemic or protests.

In a pandemic the unknowns are:

Will I catch the virus?

How long will lock down last?

How will this change society?

The fears it inspires are:

What if a family member gets sick?

Is it actually possible to die of boredom?

What will I do if I loose my job during the pandemic?

In a protest the unknowns are:

What changes will be made?

Will the changes be enough to bring peace?

Will this escalate?

How long will protesting last?

How will this change life moving forward?

The fears it inspires are:

The possibility of all hell breaking loose.

More people getting sick and dying from Covid-19.

The possibility of a strong governmental response that puts us into an Authoritarian regime.

Solo Camping is quite a bit simpler. The unknowns are:

What just went bump in the dark? (either a human, a creature, or a plant)

Will that thing kill me? (highly unlikely because humans are scarier than animals and the humans here are all good nature-loving, bike riding types)

The fears it inspires are:

All in your head.

What is the take-away from these observations?

The take-away is that there is a place for society and a place for nature. Society actually protects us from the elements of exposure found in the natural environment. I’m not talking about animals eating humans, but the heat and the cold. Camping with other people also helps calm our fears of the unknown. For these things, I am very grateful for an operating society. I like going to coffee shops and starting conversations with complete strangers about everything and nothing.

Nature reconnects us to ourselves. Nature is a mirror that doesn’t scream back at you. It’s quiet, calm, mysterious, and silently working in harmony to grow. Imagine if humans were like that? Nature strips away all the labels and equalizes survival. This trip helped me put into perspective what really matters in my life. The people I have around me and the natural world. Paired down even further what’s most important to me is the company I keep and the essence of life itself.

How are you recharging during this time?

Please leave a comment or email: firewalkerarts@gmail.com

Thai Massage Circus 2/13/16

Last night’s celebration was the best birthday so far. They helped to arrange a real Lao style party. There was fire dancing with a very smokey lamp oil that burned forever. David, Eli, Zara, Nicole and I all had a turn with the fire. They all performed beautifully.

Nicole brought her fancy fans that were backlit with a laser pen. The whole show was very hypnotic.

Dinner was hand tossed clay oven baked pizza with a desert of banana ice-cream. The whole group was very happy to have a sweet treat and fire show.

Today we are dropped off in Luang Prabang to relax and get supplies. I was searching for a hot shower with no luck.

Walking through the dusty streets trying to find simple home items is quite the task. A small girl helped me to find the shop that sells medical supplies. I noticed that you can purchase a full round of amoxicillin over the counter for less than $5 USD.

Luang Prabang makes me feel so calm. The market and the people are similar to a river. The sounds of babbling and the pace of life is very slow.

I’m struck by how much the States are obsessed with safety. Home feels like such a sterile environment where you’re not allowed to touch anything without first washing your hands and applying hand sanitizer. In Laos there seems to be a “knowing” between the people on the street. They move like a school of fish with no signs or street lights maintaining order.

I’ve been completely disconnected from the internet. The people are hardly ever on their phones and I’ve only seen one T.V. since arriving.

Thai Massage Circus 2/11/16

The door fell off my bungalow but, David fixed it.  The morning course was rather difficult with spinal twists and hip movements.  All of the hip work is pretty intense.  When we were working on the QL someone missed and pushed down hard on my floating rib that had been broken several years back – I cried after that and promised a swap back that probably won’t happen but, that’s ok.

Mali worked with me in the afternoon and we were playing around in Gecko pose.  I have not yet worked with the same person twice in massage. There are about 30 people in the class so its possible to work with everyone a couple of times.

All of the meals were delicious again.  The kitchen is a giant bungalow open air.  I have no idea how they make the food so awesome.  There are two refrigerators and they store all our drinking water in barrels under the kitchen.

The locals take the laundry into town two days a week but it takes too long to come back and I didn’t bring enough to use the service so I am still washing in the river.

I have started to read the manual for the circus and its very entertaining so far.

Today the german phrase was : What is for breakfast = was gibt es zum fruschtück. (probably not spelled correctly–edited in 2019). OISHI is the Japanese word of the day.

Fire spinning is definitely happening tomorrow.  I worked it out with David and it will be at 7pm.  It is the same day as the sauna and I’m excited to do that again.  David and I talked about the logistics of how to set it up and it will come together quite nicely.

Whatever was bothering me after lunch (broken rib irritation) has passed but the feeling o being on a boat remains.

Chatted at length with Marty tonight.

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Additional notes:

David is the general handy man at the circus.  He is usually walking around through the circus with a hatchet in hand and a bounce in his step.  When I first arrived he was working on the constructing a drain pipe for the sauna.  He is the go to guy for fixing things at the land.  I should note also that he is always wearing the baggy Thai style pants and is allergic to shoes.

Thai Massage Circus 2/10/16

The morning starts with 1/2 hour meditation followed by playful yoga for one hour.  The teacher – Baba – is very funny and helpful. This morning’s class we reviewed the previous days work.

I admitted to my partner that I had a biopsy and had not told anyone or spoken about it since I left.  They old me that their grandmother had passed three days prior.  We shared stories, built trust, relaxed and felt better.  We share a good practice.

After the morning practice we went over some of the moves that were more difficult.  Khao ran over my feet-cheeky little dog.

The people on the land say she will probably only live a few months because no one owns her and when we leave the locals will probably eat her.

p.s. there are no drains in the toilet or shower floors, the water that misses the toilet travels toward the river.  The whole structure is slanted for this to occur.  Its kind of gross to walk through so I wash my feet after and plan to get sandals in town on Saturday.

Sometime this morning I finally arrived.  All the headaches and body pains evaporated.  Thank God!  Its so beautiful here.  I’m getting more and more adventurous as time passes. Planning a fire show.  Everyone is so patient and forgiving of one another – I think it has something to do with the language differences.  All conversations are slower, much slower than at home.  I love body workers too they are very conscientious of their touch and in general more gentle.

I am so grateful to Arno today, his knowledge and expertise is so valuable, totally worth the price of admission.

DCIM100GOPRO

Laos Country 2016

Thai Massage Circus, Laos 2/9/16

The land is beautiful here.  The camp is set between two rivers.  You cannot escape the sound of the rivers.  The water is very soft and buoyant.  I have been washing my clothing in the river in the mornings.  I brought just enough clothes for two days before ending to wash.  It’s an amazing ritual to wash in natural flowing water.  You can see the circle of dirt collect and dirt returned.

After washing I hang the clothes on my bungalow’s window.  Its a very small room made of bamboo and built on a raised platform.  I picked the one closest to the garden.  They grow a lot of food here.  Every day i see the Lao gardener tending to the plants.  He is wearing American clothes and I wonder about his life.  How did he come to be a gardener?

I am very slowly learning Lao, Thai and German.  There are so many different languages here and so much time, its good to practice and hear the language and have it corrected on the spot.

“Ich bin fier und trisand yarra alt” is the phrase I learned tonight.  I’m sure it’s not spelled correctly here.

I should mention the toilets since they made the news today.  They are squatting toilets like India.  Better for shitting, that’s for sure.  We are not to use toilet paper and put it in the toilet, we are to put the toilet paper in the basket.

To flush, there is a garbage in with water and a cup.  Lastly there is a small spray hose for cleaning your butt.  All of this is new to me and very interesting.

The showers look like the one at the hostel but day 1 was ice cod and day 2 was not much improved.

Tonight they had a sauna instead of a bonfire.  It is a homemade sauna, the engineering is pretty amazing.  It looked to me like they built a coal fire under two oil barrels that were filled with water.  The barrels are connected to the sauna room via pipes.  It is very hot and raised my core temperature back up.  Much needed after the last two nights.


Additional notes:

The spray gun had been dubbed a “bum gun” by a fellow circus goer.  After the first two days of trying to shower in icy water I determined it was easier to jump in the river, soap up and jump back in to rinse off.  I did that for the remaining days at the circus.

DCIM100GOPRO

Bamboo hut in Laos

Luang Prabang, Lao 2/7/16

DCIM100GOPRO

Journal:

The first thing that stands out in Luang Prabang, after its epic beauty, is the motorbikes.  Seems everyone has one.  There is a minimal amount of street signs – I have yet to see one that indicates a road name.  The vehicles pass each other and ride close without signaling.  There are no cross-walks.  I love it because it is so different.  I’ve always felt that people back home don’t pay attention anymore because we are so coddled by all the street signs.

The place is dirty – garbage and dirt, construction and general disorder – not at all like home.

The thing I love the most about this city is the people are TOGETHER.  They’re out in the street walking, talking, working TOGETHER.

There are no skyscrapers and the gigantic river roars past just off the city center.  This feels so much more real than being at home ever has.  The only thing that comes close is living at the trailer park when I was young.

This morning I’m awoken by sounds of people showering and venture down to write and have tea.  Breakfast is included as well as coffee and tea all day long.  I have most certainly thrown caution to the wind and dover right in.  Last night I took a shower in what felt like unclean water, ate food from the open market and paid less mind to sanitation.  It feels so liberating to be out of the sterile environment in the US.  I’m just grateful that my home near Brady Street is basically the American version of this (if you add police and a lot more people).

Roosters are crowing all night.

This place makes me wonder what we gained in civilizing ourselves.  I am also very curious about the Vietnam side of the Vietnam war – the people here are so kind and generous.

A dog from the street has come up into our hostel’s outside dining area and begun to quietly beg for food.  A very cute dog, if a little banged up.

Luang Prabang smells like a firecracker.  A mix of motorbike exhaust, campfire and strange food smells invade the sense.

I had completely forgotten about the biopsy until the shower – it brought a wave of sadness and remembrance of the last day in the States.  I feel somber about it – stuck somewhere between a statistic and my own head.  (Had a biopsy done the day before leaving and it was a bit rushed but came back benign).

I am in love with this place but, being here and living here would be two very different things.  Sitting and enjoying the sun play on my face has me thinking again about the life I really want to live.

In this moment everything seems so perfectly set in place.

——————-

Additional Notes:

There were two journal entries with the same date but a different location-Not sure what happened there but they’re both being posted regardless.

The trailer park where I grew up was in Lake Geneva and it had rolling hills infant of a pine forest and a secret hidden gravel pit complete with old broken tractors.  It was what I’d call an Idyllic outdoorsy childhood.  All the neighbors knew each other and we would have our own community holiday parties in the summer.

Thai Massage Circus, Lao 2/7/16

Journal:

Still not entirely sure what to expect on this adventure.  The morning enjoyed a homemade omelette at the hostel – its included in the stay.  Then ventured out to find the Mekong river and book on Lao.  Did not find either, got lost and then went into a volunteer organization that directed me to a school “Big Brother Mouse” where they have free english classes.  Spoke with a gentleman “Lam” for a while about the classes.

Then ventured to find food – a delicious chicken sandwich.  Also bought a beautiful Lao handcrafted blanket to help stay warm at night.  Juggled for a bit in the market and drew a crowd.  A lady and gentleman said I could easily teach classes to the local people and make a living that way in Luang Prabang.

Found the bus to camp easily – many people were going.  The ride was about an hour.  At camp I napped – nothing really happened the first night.  Missed a delicious dinner but still ate.  Joined the fire circle and the dog came over and laid in my lap “Khau” like sticky rice but not like “cow” but they sound the same.  I’m now writing by candle-light.  My little bungalow has no running water or electricity.  I absolutely love this! Can’t wait to see what its like when it warms up.

You can hear the rivers from  everywhere on the land.

Additional Notes:

The dogs name is pronounced Cow – oo .  One the last day of the retreat someone pointed out that the dog’s name was actually “White” not sticky rice but the words sound similar.  Sticky rice sounds like cow and white sounds like cow oo.  But when you say sticky rice/cow it’s not flat, you raise up and down during the vowel and cut it short. For white you raise up and extend the oo at the end for a bit longer.

The bus ride was in the back of a pick up with a top on it…they’re called Tuk Tuk’s.  There are different sizes with different names and they go for various rates. The circus had pre arranged Tuk Tuk rides for the days off.

The land is on the way to the Kuang Xi  Waterfall so it is very easy to get a ride to/from the circus and Luang Prabang.  You just go to the main road and wait for a Tuk Tuk and flag them down.  Some of our group took free rides with other tourists.  Some of the circus goers were even brave enough to thumb motor bike rides.  The motor bikes are not taxis in Laos like they are in Thailand.  In Thailand they have special certifications to taxi on the motor bike.