The poetry of downward-facing dog
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published by News Press on December 24, 2013. Posted with permission.
A daily downward-facing dog practice builds strength, balance and flexibility. You’ll also cultivate a bold serenity.
Try down dog as a morning routine or bedtime ritual or even when work gets absurd. This yoga asana assimilates the back, front body, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, legs and feet. No wonder it is an entire yoga class in one pose.
Although it is familiar and recognizable, it’s infrequently broken down at yoga classes which is why many down dogs resemble domes instead of inverted V’s.
Begin on your hands and knees, knees under the hips and hands just forward of the shoulders. Spread your fingertips wide, and lock them to the ground.
- Lift your knees off the floor and then push your butt back with a slight arch in your lower back. Your heart will be close to your knees.
- Imagine a balloon string attached to your tailbone that lifts your butt to the sky.
- Drop your head like a bowling bowl. Nod it Yes. Shake it No.
- Pedal your feet before straightening your legs. Take it easy. Microbend the legs, and protect your Achilles tendons and calves.
- If you feel pressure in your wrists, shift your weight back into the legs by moving your torso to your thighs.
- As your head hangs loose, spread your shoulder blades and feel your underarms spiraling inward to face each other.
- There should be a straight line from your hands to your hips. Breathe with deep ujjayi breath, pulling the oxygen into the lungs with the throat, creating that ocean sound.
As you experience the pose, center your awareness on the energy flowing through your body. Imagine a line from your hips, down the legs, into the feet and grounding into the earth. Simultaneously, an energy line shoots from the hips, down the back, neck and arms and into the earth through the hands.
You’re upside down, so enjoy this inversion of perspective. This flip reverses blood flow to the brain and energizes the body and imagination. You’ll be inspired and alert while also being grounded.
Again, it takes practice.