During this week's practice I worked through multiple sun salutations. And it occurred to me that I'm not sure if I am doing downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) correctly.
Now, this has been an ongoing question in my mind because whenever I transition into downward facing dog from either the plank or hand and knees position, I always feel out of position.
Typically, I move my feet forward to feel like its the right position. In the last six months or so, I've also tried keeping my feet planted in place and moving my hands back instead.
How far apart should one's feet and hands be during downward facing dog?
Interestingly, Yoga Journal talks about different types of "dogs" - long versus short. Depending on the flexibility in the shoulders, mid back, hamstring and calves (the main areas being taxed during downward facing dog), it will depend what type of downward facing dog you will do. Makes total sense - you are as good as your weakest or in this case tight or flexible link!
It is a battle of body parts! Based on my assessment, two parts of my body fit well with long dog whereas other parts of my body align with short dog.
Flexible shoulders = short dog
Flexible mid-back = short dog
Flexible hamstring = long dog
Tight calves = long dog
I guess this is a bit of a disclaimer, but Yoga Journal suggest to "rather than be concerned with a rigidly defined and "proper" Downward-Facing Dog, explore all its variations...emphasizing different parts of the body in any given sequence." Hmmmm...
I dug deeper and found a few more handy resources on downward facing dog. One focusing on the lower body, one focusing on the upper body and one just focusing on technique and variations. All good reads!
But I still haven't answered my original question. Is it because everyBody is different?
Do you know the answer?
Maybe I'll find the answer in a future post,
I've been yoga prop adverse in the past but have slowly incorporated more props into my regular practice. The more and more I practice, the more I see props place in yoga. Even for someone who is relatively flexible, props allows me to move further and/or relax into the pose.
The yoga strap has found it's regular place in my practice. It's been with some trial and error that the strap has found it's place. My inability to loop the strap has been my biggest challenge! :)
And as usual I've fished around to get a couple key points about yoga straps. Here's what I found:
Typically yoga straps are made of hemp or cotton and are between 6 to 8 feet long. I opted to get two straps with different lengths just to be sure (and honestly, try to encourage my husband to use one to help with his posture!)
Duskyleaf.ca states three main reasons to use a yoga strap.
#1 - Strap in and Relax
Essentially let the strap secure your specific body part into a pose or let the strap carry the weight of your body part to increase the stretch.
#2 - Binding your Time
Allow the strap to make connections between hand and foot or hand to hand.
#3 - Better Blindfolded
In the end of practice while in savasana, use the strap just like an eye pillow to encourage the eyes to relax and block out any extra light.
What prompted my exploration of yoga straps this week is that I tried a new DVD called Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners by Tamal Dodge. During the Hatha portion of the DVD, he uses the strap in many unique ways that I have never tried before. For example, using the yoga strap with the upper body during a modified warrior I pose (seemed to help stack the shoulders over the hips better and engage the arm muscles more) and single leg happy baby pose (allowed for greater hip range of motion).
Again, I can't reiterate how much I still need to learn about yoga and how to incorporate the yoga strap into poses. All this work is building on my knowledge and experience to be a teacher one day!
So this Patanjali guy, what's he all about? I've noted him before and even said I've started to read his work, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali but I don't fully understand who he is.
I picked up a copy of the Yoga Sutras, and if you don't know, it's someone else's interpretation of his Sutras that you'll find. Over 22 classical interpretations exist which doesn't include contemporary interpretations. I have Mukunda Stiles version because it proposes to be interpreted with the practice of yoga in mind. Okay, good place to start if I want to be a yoga teacher one day.
Here is what I've found out so far based on Stiles book...
"Patanjali is to Yoga what Buddha is to Buddhism."
His sutras are guidelines to self-realization. In other words, I see it as suggested recommendations to follow to achieve the most ideal yoga practice...and maybe life.
His Sanskrit name can be interpreted as "a lover of God" and thus, he isn't looked upon as the "one" or "creator of yoga" but a spiritual leader who shares his suggested way to practice.
And his book is separated into four sections with a total of 196 "antidotes". I haven't got much further in understanding the four sections. It seems that each section has a theme that touches on the nature of yoga, the practice or disciplines of yoga (I.e., the eight limbs of yoga), the manifestation that occurs with yoga and liberation gained from yoga. Kinda heavy and ooverwhelming to me at this point!!!
Stiles writes his interpretation in prose, kind of like a poem. My hope is that reading his version, it will be easy to understand and process what it's all about. Well, maybe. I can't say I'm an avid reader of poetry!
I haven't made it too far so more to come with answering questions about Patanjali.
Back to reading...and hopefully a peaceful pratice this week,
I have a hard time believing that I've made it 40 weeks of practicing yoga AND writing about it each week. I feel like I'm in my infancy of learning to be a yoga teacher.
This week, appropriately, I focused on happy baby pose or otherwise known as stirrup pose (Ananda Balasana). The more I look into this pose I see its relation to the knees to chest pose (Apasana) and how it is a hip opener that I wish I started years ago.
In the book, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, it outlines a perfect sequence of moving from knees to chest pose into happy baby pose in five simple steps. The book gently reminders its' readers to keep the low back (sacrum) on the floor by activating the low back musculature. It wasn't until I started to practice yoga on a regular basis that I realized I might have been doing the knee to chest pose somewhat wrong. My low back loved to curve off of the floor. So now it is my main focus, physically, during the pose.
I progressed through the listed poses until I reached happy baby pose. *Sigh* What a releasing pose. It just makes sense that babies hang out in this position. My hips (and low back) got a release. And based on the Anatomy of Hatha Yoga book, it is the head of the femur in the hip socket (acetabulum) that is really making the move and thus, impact on my hip range of motion.
I also tried other options to the happy baby pose such as placing my feet flat up against the wall for support. I absolutely love any wall supported poses. They are slow, calming and relaxing.
Sarah Powers also writes about happy baby pose in her book, Insight Yoga. She states that:
"[The] pose stimulates the Kidney meridian (as well as the Liver and Spleen) as it flows up your inner legs."
I'm not totally sure how the meridians work at this point but based on how close your legs are towards your torso, it makes sense that it would have an impact on those organs. I have also heard it is a great pose to connect with oneself because your connecting your hands to your feet. Interesting, wouldn't you say?
Yoga Journal notes additional benefits of: "stretches the inner groins and the back spine and calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue".
Well, who doesn't want that!
I'm happy and still in my babyhood of teaching,
Photo credit: Flickr
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.