Written & Contributed by Kim King
My arms were shaking. The back of my shirt was drenched in sweat. I was seriously regretting last night’s 2 for 1 Happy Hour. This was the moment my fearlessYOGA teacher decided to inform me that adho mukha svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna; downward-facing dog) was in fact a resting posture. Needless to say, I’ve had more restful moments in life. That was not the day I fell in love with this posture. It has been a slow build. The fact that I’m writing about having any type of yoga practice is a bit shocking. I used to be one of those people who did not think yoga was relevant. I would say things like, “my chakras are fine,” “I know how to breathe,” “I’ll just fall asleep,” etc. When I attended yoga classes in the past I had ulterior motives, the most superficial being to convince my now ex-partner to go out with me.
It wasn’t until I began my fearlessYOGA practice that I stepped onto the mat with serious intent. That was when I began to realize what prompted my true aversion to yoga, relationship with self. There is no machine or terrain to focus on. It is just me, my mat and my breath, and the thought of spending uninterrupted time with all three terrified me. It is easy to be “perfect” at the gym or on the trail. The mat is a different story. It is not a place you can go, you have to “be” there. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to adho mukha svanasana; it’s a great metaphor for self-reflection.
You begin with your hands and knees planted firmly on the earth. Some of us deal with life’s challenges in the same straightforward manner, however adho mukha svanasana demands more. As you exhale, lift both knees towards the sky, draw your heart toward the earth. Extend through the heel and place feet as close to the earth as possible. Lengthen the torso while extending through the hips. Your arms should be relaxed.
In order to experience the full benefit of the posture, once you discover where your 100% is for that moment, you must then release all effort. Difficulties in life often require the same. You have to go deeper; you literally and physically have to face the root cause of the problem. Awareness leads to surrender and perfection is no longer the goal. The goal is to find the beauty of imperfection.
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis
*Contraindications & Cautions
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term.
- High blood pressure or headache: support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.
*Benefits, contraindications and cautions: www.yogajournal.com