Adho Mukha Svanasana: Activate!

 

Have I ever told you I’m weak? That I’m a cheater? Let me explain. When I started yoga, I hated hatha classes: holding poses longer than necessary is not my style. I had joined the hype and started with Bikram yoga. Coming from the San Francisco, a Bikram yoga studio (and its various styles/forms) is found at nearly every corner. Bikram yoga consists of 26 static poses, none of which contained the prominent asana, Adho Mukha Svanasana or downward facing dog.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is arguably the most basic pose in yoga, the pose that experienced yogis return to rest and steady their heartbeats. SImilar to Balasana, or child pose. For me though, it is probably one of the most difficult asanas I’ve ever learned and am still learning. The first time I stepped into a hatha class, I explained to the instructor that I had been practicing yoga consistently for 6 months. It was mighty embarrassing when I wasn’t able to complete an Adho Mukha Svanasana, especially since it was my first time witnessing this pose in a yoga class. As I regularly attended various hatha classes, I carefully observed other practitioners and the instructors. Within a few weeks, I was finally able to achieve what I had deduced as the the three basics in Adho Mukha Svanasana: 1. Turn the body into a triangle 2. Extend the arms 3. Heels flat on the floor. The third basic is arguably the hardest for most, and when I became flexible enough to  ground my heels, I thought I had perfected Adho Mukha Svanasana. But, I was wrong. Teachers would encourage me to deepen the pose by placing their palms in between my scapulae. A deepen downward dog was a hard downward dog, and eventually became a pose I loved to cheat.

Adho Mukha Svanasana Quick Tips

A proper Adho Muka Svanasana requires palms flat on the floor, arms extended,scapulae retracted, shoulders rolled in, hips flexed and lifted, lower belly engaged, inner thighs internally rotated, heels flat on the floor, and the list goes on! To cheat, I divided my weight between my palms and hips, resting on both the palms and hips. Hence, my downward dog is a lazy one. To not cheat, I needed to push my weight back towards my hips and extend and activate my arms. This wasn’t easy, and still isn’t. I consistently need to remind myself to extend the arms, flex and lift the hips, and stare at the navel. And, I was and am weak! Even now, my arms are sore after a basic hatha class due to properly holding Adho Muka Svanasana. And, I don’t consider this to be a bad thing. I am self aware whenever I am in Adho Muka Svanasana. Even a resting pose, should be a mindful, active one.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is always better with friends.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is always better with friends.

Debbie Trinh (200hr YTT weekend class)