With the holiday season waxing toward full and the calendar year drawing to a close, what better time to integrate and reflect, restore and renew?
This month’s pose features Adho Mukha Svanasana, the beloved Downward-facing Dog Pose. Downward-facing Dog serves numerous purposes in a yoga practice, and can stand alone as a go-to posture to revitalize and refresh the weak and the weary.
A standing pose, a passive inversion, a mild backbend, and an arm strengthener and leg toner, this super posture is often used in Sun Salutations, as a transition between poses, or as preparation for more advanced backbends and inverted arm balances. Downward Dog can also be used solo, when time for practice is tight and restoration and rejuvenation is in order.
Refreshing and delicious, Downward-facing Dog, named for the natural stretch of our canine friends, can serve you this holiday season to refresh, revitalize and bring balance to your entire system. Happy Holidays!
Come to all fours. Place your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees the width of your hips. Spread your fingers widely, feel the earth beneath them and the connection points on the palm-side of your hands.
Curl your toes under, lift your knees and press your thighs back to straighten your legs. Straighten your arms and feel a stretch along your shoulders. Root the base of the thumb and index finger into the floor, and gently hug your forearms in toward one another to encourage stability. Without locking your elbows, draw energy up the length of your arms. You can lightly grip the pads of your fingers against the mat to accentuate this energetic effect.
Now, bend your knees to help rotate your pelvis forward and deepen the fold in your hips. Keeping the natural curve of your low back, slowly straighten your legs and lift your inner thigh flesh back to help internally rotate your thighs.
Lift your hip creases toward the sky and release down through the base of your skull and the crown of your head. Stretch the backs of your legs and release your heels toward the earth.
A few actions will help stabilize your shoulders and release tension in your spine. Widen your collarbones and draw the outer borders of your shoulder blades toward your triceps to encourage opening of your upper back. Then, hug your front ribs in gently toward the back body and lengthen your tail toward the sky. Finally, soften the very tops of your shoulders and the sides of your neck, and relax the orbits of your eyes.
You can hold this pose for a few minutes or longer to enhance its benefits. Place a block or bolster beneath the forehead or the crown of your head for more support. If your shoulders or wrists are tight, injured or weak, use blocks beneath your hands, or try the variation of Puppy Pose, with your knees on the floor.
To come out, bend your knees and slowly lower your shins to the floor. Press your hips back to your heels, lower your head to the floor and take a long winter’s rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose).
Chrisandra Fox Walker teaches Downward-facing Dog and many other beloved poses at Yoga Tree. Click here for her schedule. She leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats and is a core teacher in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training Programs.
Relax and restore December 22 in her Got Ojas for the Holidays workshop. Register here. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com
Photography by Ryan Scott. firstname.lastname@example.org