A Lesson from our K9 Friends. Here is a Short List Why Everyone Should Practice His/Her Downward Dog #movementmonday
“Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement. What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action. “ ~BKS Iyengar
“Down Dog” is a common theme in my house…with two dogs and 3 yogis, I am either telling a dog to “get-down” or I am being yoga-bombed while practicing my dog pose. However, I breathe through it all and appreciate the pose for being a safe and efficient warm-up, complete stretch, strength builder, and resting pose all in one.
Adho Mukah Svanasana, (Downward Dog) is the quintessential and most widely known pose in the yoga tradition. It is almost synonymous with yoga, and is often the very first pose that is taught in a yoga class. This foundational pose has many benefits and can be considered a vinyasa (a sequential flow) all on its own. The animal inspired pose is a form of communication to invite play or deeply awaken and stretch after a long nap. In yoga, we practice this pose so it can ultimately become an awakening pose as much as a restful place, a safe place and pose from which to build strength.
It so happens that our canine friends have been on to something for some time and downward facing dog pose can benefit humans by the 10’s. Here is a short list why everyone should practice his or her downward dog:
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with a supported head
- Helps prevent osteoporosis because of the weight bearing nature of the posture
- Calms the brain and helps reduce anxiety, stress, and mild depression
- Increases blood flow to the top of the body helping to improve brain function and cognition
- The body gets a 360-degree stretch in just one pose
If any of these above reasons speak to you or you can relate to experiencing these symptoms mentioned, you can come to learn through yoga that it has incredibly healing ramifications. Yoga is an art and a science. When the correct alignment is placed, and the nervous system can interpret what your body needs. A mindful practice is one that is continuous and accessible. Downward Dog is a beginner’s pose as much as an advanced practitioner’s. It is a pose within a pose, within a pose, and so on. Let your movements in this posture be conscious and more action will transpire.
Movement Monday: Downward Facing Dog Pose
If you want to learn the basics of a well-balanced dog pose, the instructions below will guide you through the steps.
- Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Have your feet close to the baseboard of a wall. Place your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Spread your palms, and press into the knuckle mounds of your hands, not into your wrists. In fact, you should be able to slightly lift your wrists, as all the weight should be in the fingers, in particular the thumb and forefinger wedge.
- Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor but supported on the baseboard. With bent knees, lift your hips as high as you can towards the sky. These are baby steps as your hips climb higher and higher, so allow a full cycle of 3 breaths here while reaching your peek. From your inner ankles up to your inner thighs draw the legs up into the groins and press back to open the backs of your knees.
- Firm the outer arms (triceps) and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. Rotate your outer arm externally down towards the mat and away from your ears. This will help engage your shoulder blades on your backside and draw them down your back.
- Be mindful of your lumbar spine, the low back area. Make sure it is not crunching or shrinking and draw your core muscles up and into the belly button region. As you spin your thighs inward, this too will ignite the adductors and feed into the strength of your core, protecting and elongating your lower back.
You should not feel pain in the wrists or low back in this pose. If so, come out and reposition yourself. Use the baseboard of the wall for support and press your heels deeply into that foundation to give you stability. Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes keeping the breath flowing evenly and consistently in and out through your nose. Enjoy the strength building aspect of Downward Dog and pay homage to our animal kingdom in this new perspective for teaching us how to heal our bodies.
Sam Bederman: Certified Yoga Instructor, (CYA-RYT) and Iyengar trained, uses Yoga to assist with healing injuries, aiding in recovery from surgeries, managing chronic and degenerative issues, and as a preventative measure to increase stability and mobility for overall well-being. Sam is a mother of 2 kids, two dogs and the founder of Yogabodii. Visit: yogabodii.com