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Yoga with Pearl: A Parrot’s Perspective on Downward Dog

Cockatiel Yoga Mat
Don’t even get me started on what Pearl must think of “feet”….he often sees my toes and breaks out into a spontaneous serenade (click the pic for a video of this)!

To say my parrot, Pearl, and I do everything together might be an exaggeration…but only just slightly.

For example, our day begins with parrot wake-up and cleaning the avian casa. This is followed by parrot breakfast and then parrot shower.

Then it is on to Yoga with Pearl, a flock-wide favorite that involves me rolling out the yoga mat and awkwardly making my way through yet another Yoga with Adriene YouTube video while Pearl and his bestie, the bathroom clock, oversee the proceedings from his nearby towel basket nest.

I love Yoga with Adriene for a variety of reasons, but one of the most compelling reasons is her choice to include pets in nearly every video. Her dog, Benji, has his own clothing line and fan following (not necessarily in that order). His version of Downward Dog puts us all to shame.

Fellow pet lovers from across the planet send her their cute pics of pet-centric yoga – one of the many perks of the at-home yoga practice, as Adriene continually reminds us – and then she reposts them on Instagram for all of us to enjoy.

Cockatiel Does Yoga
I call this pose the “Zen Yoga Waffle Hawk.”

I have to say – aside from Benji, I have yet to see another yogi so accomplished as Pearl.

Even as I tumble out of yet another attempt at Tree pose, I look up to see my avian effortlessly balanced on one tiny pink foot, while the other foot delicately soothes an itch right beneath his left eye.

And here is where practicing yoga with my cockatiel really gets interesting.

Pearl and I have been doing yoga together for a good, solid year and a half now – almost since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in late 2017.

Every single day since we first began our daily at-home yoga practice together, Pearl has gotten visibly (and audibly) excited every time I raise my arms.

For example, today I did a practice which was mostly floor work. I was raising my legs here, there and everywhere while Pearl watched me do it. But he just sat there watching without so much as a whistle of encouragement.

In the second half of the practice, I moved from the floor to a standing position. Adriene then led us through a series of Warrior poses (Warrior 1, 2, reverse, peaceful, et al) – these poses all require big sweeping arm movements.

It never fails – the moment my arms start moving, Pearl starts shrieking!

As usual, Pearl went nuts. He exploded into shrieking, chirping, vocalizing with each new arm motion. It was ear-splitting – and mind-bending.

In that instant, I suddenly realized Pearl never does this when I am moving my legs and feet and he always does it when I am moving my hands and arms!

He just gets so excited, to the point where I often joke with him that this is “mommy’s flying practice.”

But until today, I didn’t really catch on that Pearl seems to clearly distinguish between my “arms” and my “legs.” He seems to somehow instinctively grasp that, if a day were to come when I woke up and had managed to grow feathers of my very own, I would flap my “arms” rather than my “legs” to use them.

After spending more than 20 years side by side, I can also say that, to my ears at least, Pearl’s vocalizations have a distinct tone of….encouragement. He is clearly excited, eager to communicate that excitement to me, willing to shriek for as long as it takes for me to achieve “liftoff” – the tone of his shrieks is not one of distress (another sound I know well) but one of eagerness and excitement about what I am doing.

Am I correct? Who knows. I may never know. But what I do know is that, at some level, when my cockatiel looks at me, at my anatomy which appears so different from his own, he appears to possess some native awareness of the function of my parts, possibly because he compares them to the function of his parts, matching up the parts, so to speak.

Or it could have some altogether different meaning. Maybe when I raise my “wings,” it is a signal to my flock members (aka Pearl) that I have found something good to eat…or that it is time to migrate….or that I have spied a potential love interest….or something else entirely is going on.

I don’t know, because here I have clearly ventured into Pearl’s territory and am speaking his language without benefit of a translator (like, where’s the app for this?!). So while I might think my message is totally innocuous, relatively meaningless even, once conveyed it reliably triggers an over-the-top response from him. So it must mean something.

One other thing I have realized from watching Pearl watch me do yoga is that all he sees in my form is function. This is remarkable for a variety of reasons, but mostly because, after a three-decade battle to beat an eating disorder, even I rarely manage to witness my own body through truly objective, non-judging eyes. It is not such an easy feat and I am still working hard to master it.

Pearl’s eyes contain no judgment at all, only curiosity and a desire to be part-of whatever it is I am doing, because I am his mommy and he loves me and when you really love someone you never want to be apart. Ever.

When Pearl looks at me flailing about as usual in the transition from Mountain to Table to Downward Dog to Plank to (blessedly) belly flop, all I feel is….love.

with great respect & love,


Yoga with Pearl: A Parrot’s Perspective on Downward Dog

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Songwriter. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). Yoga with Pearl: A Parrot’s Perspective on Downward Dog. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Sep 2019
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