Teachers can get stuck in how they explain yoga postures and students can get stuck in patterns of holding. Yoga is like learning a new language (uhh, sometimes it is… sanskrit!) and it make take years to translate from mind to body.
Teachers have the opportunity to examine how they are using language and presenting postures… it’s up to them to notice if students are getting “lost in translation”
Arguable, downward facing dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana (pronounced: AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna) is one of the most practiced and taught asanas (i.e. yoga pose) in yoga studios around the world… thus, likely, one of the most misunderstood. Here are a few tips to try next time you find yourself in an inverted “V”.
Stabilize the shoulder: externally rotating the upper arms in relationship to the shoulder joints while pronating the wrists to root the hands solidly on the ground. External rotation of the upper arms allow the back to extends. The lats, traps, erector spinae and intercostal muscles awaken and elevate towards the hips and tailbone.
Establish your roots: contacting the quadriceps and lengthening the hamstrings lift the knees upward and move the femur heads (top of thighbones) back. This helps root the feet/heels down, allowing the lower back, sacrum and gluteus muscles to extend.
Balance ‘effort’ and ‘ease’: lightness and freedom of downward dog comes from strong grounding from the legs into the feet.
When yoga students are “lost in translation”, this can result in compression, forced movement, overextension and possible injury! Keeping in mind these slight adjustments will help you (and/or your students!) move towards a downward dog with a sense of groundedness and lightness. much love.
i had another amazing workshop with the lovely Jay Fields (see earlier post on standing stronger & softer) at Trinity Yoga Centre.
This session focused on Downward Dog… a pose commonly used to visualize hatha yoga. It was an opportunity to explore the shoulder girdle, psoas, muscle of the lower legs and feet – and generally feel the interconnectedness of the body. It’s amazing to stretch the bottom of your feet and see it translate to spaciousness in your downward dog!
One aspect that resonated with me was the feeling of “intimacy with your posture”… the more you are intimate with someone, the more you love ALL their parts. This translates to your yoga practice as well, the more you “get to know” your posture, the more you begin to love the softness and openness, as well as the struggles.
the shoulder girdle is amazing in that the clavicle, scapula and humerus are only connected to the axial skeleton (spine) at the sternum! and what do you think happens when we have a stress-response… we hunch forward to find/protect that stable spot.
we explored “putting our girdle on” or creating a stable shoulder, as well as stretching the wrist and forearms (which Jay so warmly referred to as “throwup series” because of the intense stretch and nerves) and lower legs (which, surprisingly, impact your downward dog more than you would think).
so, i put my “girdle on”, firmly planted my hands/fingers, softened my hip flexors, engaged core, moved inner thighs back, and released my heels towards floor… what do you think?
thank you Jay for, again, bringing more openness to my yoga practice. can’t wait to see you again in the fall! much love.
p.s. all this new knowledge about how to stretch and strengthen the shoulder girdle will really come in handy for paddling the Bowron Lakes next weekend 🙂