When exploring the basics of downward facing dog, I neglected to research many of the various modifications that exist. This week's practice, gave me ample time to wiggle and twist into a fantastic opening variation of downward facing dog.
Nicknamed fire hydrant pose for a reason, this modification of downward facing dog entails a "leg up" position that can only resemble a dog doing his duty. From the regular downward facing dog position, one leg is lifted into the sky turning the pose into a three legged dog (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Alignment is essential to this part of the pose because once the leg lifts it is a free for all with the hips. They tend to want to open away from the ground the further the leg floats into the air. Now of course, cueing the hips square to the floor is correct, even if the leg has to lower down.
Three legged downward facing dog is a pose that is not traditional but more of a variation that has been made in the last 40 plus years. It may have steamed from a need for more challenge to your basic dog and/or just plain variety.
Let's get back to the fire hydrant! In this week's practice, we went one step further. We were cued to bend the knee of the lifted leg and flex the ankle. Now that looks like more of a dog! From there, we were asked to rotate our hip back and stack one hip onto the other (the weight of the bent knee leg and ankle helped make the shift via gravity too!)
And whala, an instant twist of the lumbar spine and opening of the hips! The benefits of down dog plus a hip flexor stretch for the top hip, a twist through the spine and a balance and stability challenge!
Holding this pose long term is a challenge I care to take on!
So much to learn about the classic pose, downward facing dog,
Tree trunks? Yep, I got them. My legs are thick, for lack of better words. And its likely how my ancestors thrived on the farm...especially with all the physical labour that days gone by required.
I can say it.
I use to hate them. Finding a pair of pants that fit in the legs and the waist is a never ending struggle.
But now I embrace the strong base of support I own.
Well, sort of strong...
As noted during pregnancy, I found that last post-partum period was "hard" on my legs. They withered away to nothing and truly, I think I lost a fair amount of muscle mass.
With this revaluation, I've been adamant to keep my leg strength. I am the first to admit that I love squats. So when our teacher this week said we were going to do chair pose (utkatasana), I started to grin!
As I descending into the seated position, I felt like I was home. Granted, not a low as usual nor was it particularly easy but I knew this is something I need to work on. Then the teacher threw in a twist, literally.
Cued to bring my hands into pray position in front of my body, I started to wobble. Then told to rotate the left arm to the outside of the right thigh...and thats when I lost it. That being my strength. It is intriguing to me how each body part interacts with each other. I need to be strong through my core to keep the pose. She found my current achilles heel - my core!
Even though I struggled (and breathed through it!), I enjoy revolved chair pose (parivrtta utkatasana) almost equally as I do chair pose. It is in the challenge that we move forward.
Revolved chair pose is a leg strengthen exercise but it also provides a great upper body stretch. The chest, shoulders and upper back benefit. The core, no doubt, is also challenged especially the oblique abdominals. Engage the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals, and you've got yourself a core challenge (note - this is my achilles heel if you didn't catch it earlier!)
The pose is excellent for a spinal twist as well. It tones the internal organs, including the kidneys and digestive organs. All a while trying to challenge your balance!
Not only did my legs get the work they need but my core did too. Honestly, my mind did too. It takes coordination to do this pose!
Always an adventure on the mat,
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.