Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month: April 2014

The Supportive Yoga Pose of the Month 2014 is…downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)!!

As much as I love the fancy poses, sometimes it feels really nice to get back to basics.  Downward facing dog is one of first poses taught in yoga class (that doesn’t mean it’s easy!!) and certainly one of the most prevalent poses in classes in the US.

I remember when I was new to yoga hearing that eventually downward dog would become a resting pose.  I also remember rolling my eyes and snorting as I struggled to hold the pose for more than a breath or two.   Resting pose? What? Are your arms supposed to shake this much when you are resting?  I guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.

These days when I teach downward facing dog to beginners, I’ll often make the, “this is a resting pose eventually” comment in a bit of a tongue in cheek kind of way because I love the reactions I get.  But the truth is that this pose does get easier – a lot easier – with repetition.  So much of the yoga practice is building muscle memory, so while I’m not sure I’ll even think of it as a resting pose the way savasana or some variation of child’s pose is, I do think it is a great pose to reset in.  A home base, as it were, to re-evaluate how you are doing physically and mentally throughout the practice.  For that reason I almost always teach downward dog a few times throughout class – once at the beginning to take stock and see where you are at today, once in the middle to note any changes and once near the end to see how you’ve progressed.

One of the other things about downward facing dog that makes it so special is that it is in a sense a universal pose.  Here’s what I mean.  We usually group poses into categories: standing, forward bend, back bend, inversion, arm balance etc.  Downward dog is basically all of them.  It’s a standing pose, an inversion, a forward bend, a backbend, and you bear weight on your arms.  And it’s a really great prep for the more complicated poses you might want to work your way towards.

Here’s the pose unsupported from my first home practice in my new Brooklyn space.  P.S. You might have seen this photo already if you follow me on instagram (@supportiveyoga), facebook or twitter.  It was early, and I was definitely still sleepy, but it was a great way to start out the day.

Downward dog

You could also try downward dog with blocks underneath your hands.  If you slip on your mat, orient yourself so the blocks push into the wall – problem solved!

Downward Dog

Can’t bear weight on your arms?  No problem!  Try a wall dog.

IMG_0468

Happy practicing!  Give any and all of these options a try and if you feel inclined, snap a pic and share on your social media outlet of choice and tag #supportiveyoga!

P.S. Don’t forget that my getting to know you sale started yesterday!! Private yoga sessions in your home or office are just $50/hour in NYC and skype sessions are also available.  Find all the details here.

 

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