yoga

Pigeon

pigeon pose

As a freelance children’s book illustrator, my schedule fluctuates. Multiple projects have kept me busy in recent days and my work calendar for the coming weeks and months is packed. Which is great! And stressful!

My daily yoga practice is so effective for managing anxiety that I can’t abandon it, especially in busy times, but there are only so many hours in the day. When time on the mat is limited, I focus on poses that produce the most peace. For me this usually involves some physical challenge, which keeps my mind on the pose rather than the to-do list. Presently my favorite go-to pose it pigeon.

pigeonA note about me and pigeons, the birds: I love them! Pigeons are city-dwellers, and I am a city girl. Whenever I see a pigeon I feel happy. (I know, I know… some consider them “rats of the sky.” Not me.) Because of my affinity for pigeons, I sneak them into my illustrations whenever I can.

While doing research for a new book, I read an interesting story linking pigeons to the cause of peace. In light of recent world events (namely the terror attack in Barcelona), I thought I’d share it. Perhaps it will help add a layer of significance to your practice of pigeon pose.

Matisse’s Pigeons and Picasso’s Dove of Peace

dove of peace

At some point in your life, you’ve probably seen this simple drawing of a dove, or one like it. The “Dove of Peace” was created by Pablo Picasso, and is probably his best known image. Here is the story behind it.

birdHenri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were rivals in the world of art, but they are also friends who shared a love of animals. Both kept pigeons and doves—the names of which, at the time, were interchangeable. Toward the end of his life when Matisse was ill, he entrusted Picasso to look after his fancy pet pigeons.

peace dovePicasso created a lithograph (a form of printing that enabled an artist to mass-produce an image) of one of those fancy pigeons. The lithograph, “La Colombe” (The Dove)—was used on a poster commemorating the Peace Conference in Paris in 1949. The poster was plastered everywhere, making Picasso’s dove famous, and linking his art with the cause of peace.

drawing dovesPicasso continued drawing doves, stylizing and simplifying the form of the bird as he went, ultimately creating the clean, graphic peace dove images for which he is famous.

I originally had the pleasure of illustrating Picasso and his doves, including the image shown here, for Mauricio Velázquez de León’s 2014 picture book 100 Pablo Picassos—a lovely and creative biography of Picasso for kids.

The  story that links Matisse to Picasso’s doves is featured in a different book: the soon-to-be-released Artists and Their Pets, written by Susie Hodge and illustrated by Yours Truly, Violet Lemay. If you care to read more about either of these books, click here.

Picasso loved the city of Barcelona and would have been horrified to hear of the recent attack there. Here’s to his dove of peace—which was really a pigeon—and to peace through yoga.

 

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yoga

open your HEART

gentle warriorIn all my years of dabbling with yoga, I have struggled to “open my heart” in any variation of warrior pose. Attempts to stretch up tall through the crown of my head while maintaining proper posture in the warrior lunge have always made my upper body feel brittle and, well, closed.

Yesterday for the first time I was able to properly open my heart, thanks to PEACEFUL WARRIOR, a pose I discovered in Yoga with Adriene‘s 2017 Revolution, Day 21: Practice Strength. The image above (created by Yours Truly, Violet Lemay) illustrates the key: while the front arm stretches up, the back arm is bent and rests on the hips. This simple adjustment allowed my chest to completely open. In my imagination, love hearts poured out, filling the room. It was an awesome yoga moment.

This victory may seem small, but to me it was gigantic. At the age of fifty I can still learn, grow, and conquer obstacles—even physical ones. After less than a month, my  new yoga practice is already helping me feel younger and happier, more supple, more limber, more grounded and strong. More OPEN.

#grateful ❤

yoga

breathing LOVE

love in

“Lots of love in, lots of love out.” ~ Adriene Mishler, Yoga With Adriene

For me, the benefits of this simple instruction to breathe in / breathe out LOVE extend well beyond the yoga mat.

I struggle to love myself. The older I get, the more clearly I see how this affects my ability to love others—which in turn can make it difficult for them to love me. It’s a reciprocal thing.

How wonderful to associate this profound life lesson with the simplicity of breathing. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can take a moment to focus on my breath.

Lots of love in, lots of love out.

Love is patient and kind.  ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4

 

 

yoga

heal that sweet HEAD

yoga

As a busy free-lance artist, exercise has always helped me cope with stress. Whether I belong to a gym or not, I rarely miss a day. In the past few years, injuries have slowed me down and forced me to change my pursuits. Now I can’t run, so I walk. A lot. And I’ve started doing yoga.

Because of the unpredictablility of my schedule I’ve given up trying to join a class, at least for now. Thank goodness there are millions of free yoga videos on-line. My favorite are the offering of Austin-based Adriene Mishler. The image above was inspired by her “Yoga for Migraines” sequence—which, for me, was nothing short of a miraculous cure. If you are a fellow migraine sufferer, I highly recommend that you bookmark her video so you can find it easily when you need it. Also: drink your water, dear ones!