GOTTA LOVE THE PIGEON
by Martine Labbé
Like many newly dedicated yogis, I started looking into the origins of yoga and its philosophical and spiritual aspects. I got my hands of a few key books including the sacred texts of the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which aroused my curiosity and lead to even more questioning. I wondered who in this day and age decides to practice yoga, for which reasons and especially how do they carry their practices in their daily lives. That is how I came to present you with this, the first of a series of interviews presenting the members of the beautiful Ha Yoga community.
When she was sixteen, Averil first met yoga on a Sunday morning television show, watching a man of an older generation guide a weekly practice. As a teenager, she was not into conventional sports but still wanted to take care of her body so yoga attracted her, even more because it included a “love yourself” philosophy, a more spiritual aspect.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Over the course of last summer, Averil needed something to ground herself and that’s when she started being serious about her practice, “I’m a musician. I was on tour all the time and just did not have a steady job or a schedule at all. I just wanted something that would be constant and that I could take with me everywhere. I didn’t need a gym, didn’t need a field, I didn’t even need other people. Anywhere I was: at thebeach, in the city, at home, in a band or playing, I could just take the knowledge [I gained from yoga] with me and create a thread that would connect all the groundlessness of my life. And it worked because I kept doing it. The more I did it the better I felt emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
Yoga definitely brings a lot into one’s life. For Averil, it is the easiest way to access an inner space. She describes it that way, “My mind just stays quiet for a while and I can be in my body, taking time for me. I am not worrying about what is going to happen later on that day or about what I said last night. I let go of all these things, all the patterns of my mind, all the habits that I have. I feel that is when I am the most me, without any external pressures or anything that pulls on me. I am just taking time with myself and my body. I think that’s really precious because it is rare that you can find this.” This seeps seamlessly into her daily life as she learns to rely a lot more on the voice inside of her to guide her through her decisions and not to worry so much about what people think. “I feel more relaxed and more calm and stable and strong and confident and beautiful and positive!”
Yoga can also be a very difficult practice. “I notice sometimes I have a really strong emotional reaction to poses. Sometimes they are really positive and I feel empowered, loving and loved but I can also feel panicked, stuck or frustrated, thinking, ‘I can’t do this anymore, this is way too hard’ and sometimes it’s really difficult to just stay with that feeling. I find it really challenging.” Knowing that this is an emotional reaction to a physical sensation, she focuses her attention on that, letting go of what her mind is telling, for example that it is too hard and that she is not good enough. “I try to just really feel the discomfort or the tension and then give myself a little bit of compassion for that. I reverse my thinking and say, ‘this is hard right now, you are doing a good job, this is worth it, this is part of it, you can do it’, that kind of things. That reversal, I notice it in my life for sure, when there are tough moments, I am way more likely now to say, ‘I can do this, everything will be OK’ whereas before I would say, ‘I can’t, this is too much.’ The greatest teaching moments come when you get through something difficult. On the other side there is magic!”
I asked Averil what was the most memorable moment of her practice. “I think it is the first time I started to understand pigeon, what was going on in that pose (not that I totally understand now). At first, I did not feel very much, ‘What is my body even supposed to be doing right now? Where am I supposed to feel this?’ I think as I started to relax into it more, I felt this really deep stretch in my hip and I was freaking out at first. Your leg is kind of awkward and you can’t jump out of it easily, you are stuck there until you are guided out of it, especially the first couple of times. I remember just being, ‘I wanna get out of this right now, I don’t wanna be here’ and then the instructor said, ‘Don’t forget to breathe.’ I breathed really intensely but then I started to calm down and after that I just remember feeling like I was floating. My hips were really grounded and everything was solid but I just felt so light. And everything was effortless: breathing, thinking, being. I just wanted to stay there forever. I remember thinking: ‘This is me, this is how I’m supposed to be, this is who I am, naturally,’ just like the purest you that you could be. I refer to that. That kind of inner space that you are experiencing, everything you are comes from there, all the emotions that you have, all the love, everything that you can hold inside of you. It is like this huge infinite space… I have to dig more into that I think!” she said, bursting into laughter. Pigeon is consequently her favorite posture because she can really take her time with it. It suits her personality too, introspective and reflective, as she can just stay in the pose and see where that takes her. She can then observe all the micro changes, the way the muscles relax just a little bit as she watches where the tension is going and where the breath is moving.
Greatly inspired by her yoga practice, Averil wrote the music for the group she put together called Project Pigeon. “It is inspired by that posture which is the most intense, holding all the other postures in it. It is very vast; there are a lot of things that can happen in that pose. The project grew from that and all the compositions are based off of yoga positions like triangle pose or shavasana. Then it also branched out into Buddhist philosophies and the cyclical nature of life.” Her intention with that project is to share her experiences with other people.
As part of a composition exercise, she decided to use the asanas as inspiration to write. Sitting down with what each of those postures evoked to her, the music started to flow. “In Trikonasana, the triangle pose, I am so happy and my heart is opening up to the sky so I wrote a very simple rock tune expressing that. When I wrote for pigeon, I used three melodies that are mimicking the movements of each hip and the heart, how they are going closer towards the earth all the time and balancing themselves out but then there are also these little jerks that pull you out of it.” Using yoga as a raw material for her compositions allowed her to write music she would not have written otherwise.
For Averil, music and yoga became very close, “I am always inspired by new postures that I am learning. As my practice changes, the group changes too. Not just with new compositions, but with old ones. The more that I learn in my practice, the more I have to bring to the project and through the project to the world. It keeps gaining more substance and direction. All the life lessons from music and yoga are basically the same thing, inseparable, you could be talking about one or the other at all times.” She gets to explore her inner space, how to get to know and love herself through both disciplines.
Yoga gets to influence not only the music she plays with her group but also just any music she performs as the strength and confidence she builds seeps into her playing and her life, “I cannot help to be a happier person, a more dedicated musician and more humble human being.”
Averil had to first share her music with the musicians she decided to work with, “I am really happy about that experience. Some of them know a little bit about yoga but they are not practicing and I did not want to explain much about the songs because I think it is important that the strength of the composition speaks for itself. Music is beyond words so if the message does not come across without an explanation, then you did not do it right. Without any description, they hooked into the vibe of every tune right away. They are also really sensitive and sweet guys and I think they just dig it. They are interested to see where these tunes and the project are going.” Then she shared with the audience, “I was worried about it. I guess you are always worried when you present some ofyourself to the world. It is something very close to my heart so I felt vulnerable. There are also a lot of different styles happening, something bordering to experimental jazz to modern jazz to rock to lullaby.” Despite the eclectic aspect of her music, she received nothing but positive comments from her public, “They seem to appreciate the feeling that I am trying to get across and identify with that. Hopefully they see something of themselves in the music so that they can walk away with an experience. So far it’s been really nice.”
GOTTA LOVE THE PIGEON
Being Averil’s personal friend, I allow myself a little anecdote. One day we were walking together, she pointed out a bunch of pigeons and expressed her discomfort towards the birds (maybe it was dislike, maybe just misunderstanding). Frankly, it made me laugh. The poor things are harmless and do nothing but walk around and peck. Of course, as she explained it, her practice of yoga transformed the way she sees the animal and she just grew to love it. Everything is temporary.
On this ongoing journey, she is brilliantly sharing her love for music, her love for yoga and her love for life.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT
Averil just recorded the first Project Pigeon EP with the help of a FACTOR grant, which she is really grateful for. She had just launched an online fundraiser campaign to help her get the extra funds she needs for the mixing, mastering and the production of her music. She is offering in exchange a great deal of goodies including signed copies of the CD, some sweet and savory care packages saturated with love, album credits, and more.
Here is where you can participate: http://kapipal.com/projectpigeon