Downward Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana

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Downward Facing Dog makes a suitable basis for home practice. Listen to your body and mind as you develop a deepening awareness of this beautiful pose. The physical or mental areas where you have difficulty present possibilities for growth in the pose. You may wish to pay attention to these areas during preparatory practice for DFD. For instance, if your shoulders are tight, you probably want to embark upon a couple of shoulder openers before you attempt Dog. If your back has been bothering you, warm it up first with cat-cow and a twist or two. If your hamstrings have not been stretched for a while, supta padanghusthasana is in order. Once you are warmed up, you can proceed.
Here’s a video of Washington D.C. based, yoga teacher, John Schumacher demonstrating Dog.

Like Schumacher, Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog, aka DFD, is a pose I could never give up, at least not willingly. There are so many delicious benefits: the back enters a lovely traction, stretching out whatever has kinked up, the shoulders are invited to open and receive a stretch, the arms strengthen with every breath, the backs of the legs lengthen, the soles of the feet and the Achilles and calves stretch luxuriously, the heart center opens, balance is encouraged between the upper and the lower body, the upper spine and tops of the shoulders soften and then I breathe and practice my endurance or move into a flow with three legged dog, and pigeon OR plank pose and upward facing dog OR side arm balance (vasisthasana) OR forward fold and chair pose….Ahhhhhhh, the variations and mini-sequences keep the pose fresh and the mind attentive.

At least once per season I teach each of my groups a DOWNWARD DOG CLASS. An entire class focused on DOG. Barking optional. No one ever complains. I’m in my element and so are my students. We have the luxury to REALLY examine our strengths and weaknesses in DFD. Why not? Do an online search for videos of  BKS Iyengar’s dog! It becomes clear how much room there is for development ~ I know there are lots of ways to “grow” my dog. This year I’ve been working on endurance and strength in Dog. Try holding it for five full minutes. I’m not there yet and the question remains: Is it my mind or my body that is holding me back?

PS since I wrote this pose, I’ve done five minute dogs quite a few times. We even held it in the yoga for 50+ class. Did we find nirvana? Not exactly, but I come face to face with my restlessness every time.

If doing the full position of Downward Facing Dog feels too much for you, try Wall Dog. Here’s a video from Expert Village of experienced yoga teacher, Cathie Ryder showing how:

 

 

 

Finally, here are some notes from my journals:

DFD: Find the central axis and can you make it longer breathe into that area that is tight

DFD: Partner practice putting thumb in acromium process as you lift and rotate arms outward—can do this sitting

To reset shoulders, do Viparita w/ big rolls under forearms and sandbags on armpits

To teach external rotation of shoulders:

#1 head on block

#2 Thumbs and fingers on wall at floor level

#3 Ace bandages wrapped on upper arms

#4 Arms on blocks (also good for wrist issue people)

#5 blocks under forearms to help lift forearms

#6 Squeeze block between legs to rotate inner thighs rotate in….resist at ankles….stretch big toe to outer heel

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