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,
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.