One of the basic yoga postures is Downward Dog, a familiar pose in every Yoga class from beginning to advanced. Why is this pose so important? It can be adapted to various levels of experience and is a prime pose to gain core/muscle strength in an elongated posture.
As practicing Downward Dog lengthens and energizes the body, it also helps relieve depression, headaches, insomnia and fatigue, as well as strengthens the arms, legs, calve arches and toes (often neglected). When the muscles of the back are energized with fresh blood, more oxygen circulates from the spine into the body. Also, deep, intentional breathing releases toxins accumulating in the blood and body with each exhale.
A major benefit of yoga is it trains the body into improved body alignment. If a posture is improperly executed, the body will have to unlearn the negative muscle memory. It is the mind that sets the tone, pace and postures in executing the physical form. Negative habit patterns can be unlearned with a new way of thinking and movement for healthy outcomes.
As you engage the body in precise beneficial movements, negative thinking habits can be unlearned and replaced. By moving slowly and precisely into new forms, it is important to realize that the mind can direct the attitude of the emotions with a focus on discovering a healthier way of thinking and application to everyday life. Through yoga repetition of postures, the mind discovers, sometimes through painful tightness and physical/emotional impediments that there are movements that can improve the body. If the mind thinks I can’t, it is a mental impairment that needs to be addressed to establish new healthy habits. A positive attitude when initiating any yoga postures is essential.
Moving into Downward Dog, begins by lying flat on the front of the body, placing the hands under the shoulders with fingers spread wide part, tucking the toes under the feet and tightening the abdominals, Now the body is ready to lift up and pull back with the buttocks raised upwards into a “V” position. Legs are extended long to the back. Hold the pose for several minutes and breathe.
Practicing Downward Facing Dog lengthens the hamstrings and calves as it alleviates low back, hip, and knee pain. Straightening the spine in the pose helps to straighten a curved neck when walking, moving back and forth like a duck. We as human beings sometimes need to be reminded to walk tall.
Former magazine editor, Edward Bok inscribed in these words of wisdom when he created Bok Tower Gardens: “Gather up the best you have and the best will come back to you."
Learning Yoga reinforces a healthier body, inside and out.