This month, my choice of yoga asana adho mukha svanasana, commonly known in the West as Downward Facing Dog, was inspired by two things:
1: The terribly tight calves of the students that I have encountered in my yoga classes over the last month.
2. The outstanding work that the compassionate and hardworking organisations manage to do here in Phuket, funded mostly by donations alone, supporting and caring for the endless number of street dogs and cats on this island.
So where am I going with this? In order for there to be healthy, happy animals there needs to be a level of ongoing care, nurturing and education.
In order for you to have a healthy, happy body that responds to your commands, you also need to have ongoing care, self nurturing and education.
Just as you can’t expect a sick, malnourished, scared street dog to happily play stick or fetch the ball, you cant expect your tight neglected body to respond to the commands you give it everyday.
This posture is another great all rounder. I have seen this asana in many different shapes, sizes and levels of execution, and the end reaction on many astonished faces is always the same...“Oh man that feels tight but really good, I can tell my body needs it.”
Heck! who wouldn’t want to have those words tumble out their mouth as the seized, tight sensations tumble from their body? You too can soon be witness to these amazing benefits:
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
Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
Alleviates stiffness in the shoulder blades and shoulder joints
Creates strength in the ankles, flexibility in the hamstrings and relieves lower back pain.
A long hold in this posture is effective in bringing back lost energy. I like to call this posture the little mini yoga “berocca” boost.
Steps of asana:
1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out
2. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly downwards towards the heels.
3. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them.
4. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms.
5. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in child pose (balasana)