Posts Tagged ‘Downward-Facing Dog’

December 7, 2008.

Thank you fine friends for weathering the snowy cold for our Sunday evening class!

Our focus was on Balance: The balance in Yoga between effort and ease, between strength and surrender, between grounding and reaching.  

We began with some centering, neck stretches, seated quarter-moon… And then moved on to the Cat/Cow (or Cat/Dog), and focused on the “Dog-Tilt” of the tailbone: The scooping-up action of the tailbone when in the Cow position.  This scooping and pelvic tilt is the same action you apply over time to the Downward-Facing Dog: Tilting the tailbone toward the sky as the heart sinks low between the arms.

Cat/Cow Stretch         Down-Dog with Chair           Downward-Facing Dog  

After Puppy Pose (the modified version of Down-Dog, where we rest on our elbows) and Child’s, we moved on to Table Balance: From all fours, the right arm and left leg reach out from the torso in a straight line (then repeated on the other side).  Table Balance helps to engage the core so that there’s more stability… It’s a great balancing posture (obviously), and a great way to pay some attention to the abdominals.

Table Balance

We moved on to Downward-Facing Dog, trying it with that dog-tilt, bending knees and coming up on the toes to see if the spine could scoop in just a bit more.  Then we found Modified Warrior 1 again (on one knee), and then up to standing poses, beginning with Mountain.  We emphasized grounding down through the feet: Understanding that the more grounded we are, the further we can reach out.  (Note how true this is of life in general!)

We practiced the standing Quarter-Moon (leaning to each side), the shoulder-opener with straps, a standing backbend (paying careful attention to our individual bodies and surrendering to where we are now — Rather than trying to force into a pose).  We found a few Rag Dolls throughout the course of the class: Always great for releasing tension along the spine and shoulders/neck, and for complementing any backbends.  

We did some modified Yoga push-ups, (modified Chaturanga), spaced between Child’s Pose — The two of which comprise a great balance between effort and ease.  We were able to do several more push-ups when we had that rest in between them… A lesson that can also translate into life.  🙂

Chaturanga

We found Warrior 1 for the first time in this series; thank you guys for going for it!  It’s a truly beautiful posture and a great teacher… It emphasizes the strength you have in you right now, regardless of how deeply into the posture you’re able to go at this point.  It teaches that you can feel strong in any circumstance: Your body can reach out in all directions at once.  You can breathe through challenges.  You will find rest afterwards.  All of this comprises a great life-lesson…

Warrior 1

We also did the Tree Pose for the first time in our series… A beautiful balancing posture that illustrates strength and groundedness, regardless of your level of practice.  It’s a beautiful balance between grounding through the standing foot and lifting up through the crown of the head, through the fingertips if they’re overhead… feeling the body light as air with the grounded stability of that standing leg.  

Modified Tree     Tree Pose

We found Child’s Pose again, and then Bridge Pose (lying on back with soles of feet near buttocks; lifting hips with arms at side or underneath torso).  This was another first for our series, and we’ll definitely do it again in coming classes… Like all Yoga poses, it’s a brilliant teacher.  If you’re breathing steadily, you can lift yourself much longer than you may originally believe that you can.  In addition, by bringing awareness to that same steady breath, you will notice when it becomes too labored, shallow, and/or rugged.  At this point, you can lower down and offer your body the rest it needs.

Bridge Pose

The goal in Yoga is to find your edge and to see if your body is ready to go just beyond it.  The goal is never to simply ‘endure’ — Any pose should be held with full breaths — though some may be shorter than others!

We finished with some supine poses using the strap: Leg circles (drawing circles on the ceiling/wall with your foot), and a side leg stretch to open up the groins.  Great opportunities to listen to your body and determine who you are on the mat today.  You may want to stretch further,  stretch differently, look differently in the posture.  But the mat is a place to surrender those wants, and to bring awareness to who it is that showed up on the mat.  This body, this moment — is just as it should be.  You’re exploring it, pushing it, accepting it, awakening it, putting it to rest.  That’s what Yoga is all about.

December 2, 2008.

 

Down-Dog

 

Hello friends!

Oh the Downward-Facing Dog adventures we had.  Thank you for practicing! 

Here’s a Tuesday-Night Review for the interested–

We began practice on Tuesday night with a review of the Yogic 3-part breath and the Ocean-Sounding Breath.  The latter, “breathing with sound,” is the tool with which you can bring greater awareness, groundedness, oxygen supply, and release to your practice.  Try incorporating it more and more into the practice as we go!

Tuesday’s session was focused on opening the chest and lengthening the spine, so after some shoulder rolls and sun breaths, we did some seated twists (sitting cross-legged, twist to right and then left, maintaining a long spine as you go), the seated Half-Moon (reaching right arm up and over body, maintaining the long spine again), and some hip openers.  We didn’t get to the standing Half-Moon last night, but we’ll include it soon!

We warmed up the spine further while on all fours, with the cat/cow stretch, the c-curve (reaching the right shoulder toward right hip, repeat on left side), and threading the needle – where the right arm threads behind the left and you lie down on the right shoulder, in order to open up the shoulder blades.  

(If you’re feeling tight in the morning, restless in the evening, or taxed during the day, I recommend this short series of poses… Especially Cat/Cow, which is also great if you’re experiencing lower-back pain and tightness!)

We continued with the Puppy Pose, which is like the Downward-Facing Dog but on your knees and elbows (rather than feet and hands).  NOTE: If you’re experimenting with lengthening and straightening the spine in Down Dog, experiment some more with the Puppy Pose.  As you do, notice how the back feels, and stretch the elbows further away from you, elongating the spine.  Later, when we practice Down Dog, see if you can duplicate that feeling (to whatever extent works for you) in the Down Dog.

Puppy Pose

We moved from there through Child’s Pose, then Down Dog against the wall and with a chair (thank you for experimenting with me!)… And then we moved to standing poses: Mountain, shoulder-stretch with a strap, Yoga Mudra (clasping hands (or holding strap) behind you, and lifting hands up until you feel a stretch).  We worked through a couple Half Sun Salutations: Swan diving from Mountain down to a forward fold, lifting up halfway with a straight spine, then folding again, and sweeping up to Mountain again.  

We also repeated the modified Warrior 1 (on one bent knee), focusing on opening the chest and spine while balancing on the front foot and back knee.  We’ll work on the full Warrior 1 in the next class!  🙂

Our final postures included two belly-down asanas (postures), including Cobra (lying down with hands by rib cage, lifting head, neck and shoulders off of mat, keeping the spine long and working the back muscles) and Half-Locust (hands along sides, lifting one leg at a time).

And then we moved through Happy Baby (a great release; we’ll do this again!) and Savasana (Corpse Pose) for relaxation.  

As you move through the rest of the week and weekend, see if you can notice any moments when your shoulders are rolled forward or hunched up near your ears.  Notice if the back of your neck is falling toward your shoulder blades, or if your chin is drooping far forward staring at a laptop.  🙂  In these moments, lift your torso up out of your waist, roll your shoulders up, back, and down, and make your neck long, elongating your spine.  Take a deep breath and see if you feel just a bit revived.  🙂

*If you’d like to work more on the Downward-Facing Dog, here are two great things to try!

1. Remember that Yoga is a process and a practice.  If your body won’t yet allow you to experience the full pose, give yourself time, compassion, and breathing room.  Your body is the way it is right now because it’s had to be that way in order to protect you and get you through your days.  So thank it for holding you up, and for bearing your tension… And know that it will take some time and compassion to convince your muscles that they can let go.  🙂

2. Meanwhile, you can spend some time with the Cat/Cow stretch, particularly the Cow (in which the back is making a U shape). In the Cat/Cow stretch, the tailbone leads the movement.  It tilts up at the beginning of the Cow, and the spine follows, lengthening and pressing the heart toward the mat and forward through the arms.  

cow-stretch


As you practice the Cow stretch, pay special attention to the feeling of the tailbone and the arching down of the spine.  When you practice Downward-Facing Dog, your spine will be making this same shape and stretch: The tailbone tilted, the spine arching down with the heart pressing toward the mat and forward through the arms.  

So by finding Cat/Cow every now and again, you’ll learn a bit more about the lovely asana “Downward Facing Dog.”  And bonus, the Cow stretch feels awesome.  

More to come soon!