Posts Tagged ‘opening the chest’

December 2, 2008.




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.  


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!