Would I be in danger of being stoned… or possibly flayed… right here on my yoga mat if I admitted I don’t like Downward Facing Dog?
Occasionally, in the heat of Sun Salutations, I find some solace in taking the posture… sighing into it… but then, remembering my form, back to work.
Unlike Savasana, where the work is largely mental, with a hint of the spiritual, for me, Downward Dog requires considerable effort on all fronts: the mental, spiritual and just downright physical.
More often than not, the sigh- upon recalling there is proper form involved- is replaced by an “Ugh!”, uttered through the exhausted heave of my exhale… followed by shallow, inadequate breaths… until, finally- yes, finally- I embrace my last inhale and take my steps, depending on my level of energy, my hop forward to the exalted release of forward bend.
But, here’s the thing: Downward Dog is supposed to be a posture of rejuvenation… of healing and renewal! If this is the case… then why, why, WHY do I dislike it so?!
Hmmm… maybe because there’s so much to consider as you ‘rest’ in the pose. Oh, and when I say ‘rest’, there’s really nothing restful about it. Everything is engaged. From fingertips to neck, shoulders and face… holy moly even my durned tongue is involved in truly settling into this pose… to the itty bitty tips of the toes. It’s intense! Perhaps like running long distance, this pose is hard, freakin’ work, but there’s rejuvenation in it’s completion. This is what I hold on to as I breathe… breathe… BREATHE….
Interestingly, it’s been said that I actually have a pretty good Downward Dog… and y’ know what? I do. I can feel my shoulder blades and the muscles along my spine extending, wide and long, towards my tailbone; the fleshy part of my hands, between my thumb and forefinger, are pressing into the mat, with my fingers extending forward, pressure in the root of my index finger; and my arms are extended, long and rotated appropriately counterclockwise. All the while my sitbones are extending high, and endlessly inviting I might add, towards the ceiling and back wall; my thighs are engaged pressing into my thighbones… and well, you get the idea.
It’s a vision to behold, really. But you better be fast! I am SO not able to hold all that together for the requisite one to three minutes. In fact, after a couple of breaths… done. Get me to my nearest Warrior I!
However, in the event I am not alone and there are others closeted in their distaste for what is one of the foundation postures to any practice… take a look at the wonderful how-to video below and remember these benefits as you grow impatient with the posture’s demands… as your hands are slipping out from beneath you, your armpits begin to sag floor-ward and your thighs turn into martinis fit for James Bond…. OK, as always… perhaps it’s just me!
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis