Tag: mind-body

Downward Facing Dog


Let’s all breathe in together… and sigh out a big exhale and relax. Usually that’s the sound made when coming into your first Downward Dog of the day. Of course if your hamstrings and hips or shoulders are tight, you’ll let out a few grunts, but like most forward bends, the function of relaxation and total body stretching out ways the groans.

Downward Dog is an extremely popular pose in most Yoga sequences. Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Power, Anusara, Hot Vinyasa all use this excellent pose to warm the big muscle groups and strengthen the arms and shoulders for the rigors of a more strength building practice. Downward Dog focuses on stretching the shoulders, mid back, hamstrings, calves, arches of the feet, hips and hands. The “yoga buzz” you might feel at the end of class, when mind, body and breath are in alignment are often directly related to downward dog. Yoga Therapists have known for along time the benefits of forward bending and stretching to calm the mind, ease mild depression and anxiety.

Ok, let’s examine this pose more closely and practice.

  1. Set your mat, and come to hands and knees (Cat/Cow) from there tuck your toes under, ground the palms and first finger and thumb toward the floor and come to Downward Dog. Set your feet hip width apart and lift up on your tipy toes. Once on your toes, you’ll take the pressure off your hamstrings so you can roll your shoulders back, straighten your spine, lift your sit bones to the ceiling.
  2. As you’re lifting everything up, LENGTHEN, your heels to the floor, without rounding back and shoulders. Remember when you were in eight grade, chewing gum, if you clenched 1/2 the gum in your teeth and pulled the other half out like string, THAT’S lengthening. If your shoulders hunch, put a bend in your knees, grind your palms more firmly and press your chest closer to your legs.
  3. While holding Downward Dog for 5-10 breaths, engage your core and lift your kneecaps, keep micro adjusting shoulders and lengthening. Rest, by coming down to Child’s pose or Cat/Cow.


  • If you have shoulder, wrist or acute hamstring, eye injury, please do yourself a favor and HEAL before coming into a full on Downward Dog. You can get the benefits of a hamstring stretch by lying on your back, and strapping up a lifted leg and gently pulling it toward you. Go slow.
  • If you can’t yet comfortably ground your palms, grab two blocks as support props under your hands and come into the pose. You can also use a strap around your upper arms for more stability if your elbows poke out.
  • Like any yoga pose or practice, please consult your instructor before continuing if you have an injury or contraindication. I work with a lot of athletes, and often they work with incredible pain to stay on the field. Coaches have different theories on this, but my feeling, as a Yoga Coach is if you are in acute pain, stop and examine what’s going on. I like to push people to there limit, not drive them into pain.

    That being said, enjoy. Downward Facing Dog is one of my favorite poses and this combined with stretching hips, neck and a slight back bend, and sitting in silence for 5 minutes, can be your whole practice routine to re focus and energize your body daily.

    Yoga Pose of the Month: Eagle Pose

    For athletes who spend a lot of the game balancing on one leg, like kicking a soccer ball, or pushing off a dominant foot for a jump shot- Eagle Pose is an excellent pose for you to strengthen the standing leg, while improving balance. Eagle also targets a tough muscle group between the shoulder blades, that include your Rhomboids and Trapezes, which need to remain flexible especially in sports like tennis, and basketball to take the stress off shoulders.

    The benefits of Eagle include:

    1. strengthening ankles, calves and adductors (inner thighs)
    2. Stretches hips, shoulders and upper back
    3. Improves concentration and breath flow under stress

    Let’s Play

    1. Start at the top of your mat with both feet together and find a point of focus about 5’ in front of you. Get in tune with your breath; slow rhythmic breathing through the nose.
    2. Bend your knees and cross your right thigh over the left, balancing on your left foot.
    3. Squeeze inner thighs firmly together, and get active in core to increase your balance.
    4. Reach your arms out in front of you and cross your right arm over left, bend elbows and bring palms together. If it’s difficult to wrap your arms, hug your shoulders instead.
    5. To increase the intensity, sit lower in chair till your thighs are parallel to the floor and reach your fingertips forward. A slight rounding in the back and you ‘ll really feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.

    Have Fun! Remember to Breathe! It’s only yoga after all, and the more you can keep your sense of humor and come back to the pose if you fall out, the more relaxed and determined you’ll be under pressure; in sports or in life.

    For more instruction on Eagle, or any pose, please come to my classes at the SAC or schedule a private yoga lesson, now offered at SACDT, by myself or any of our many wonderful yoga teachers.
    Let’s raise a glass to Summer!!

    Yoga Pose: Baddha Konasana

    Spring is here! With all of it’s fickle weather that will have you smiling into the sun one minute, and running for cover from a hailstorm the next. Spring is such a tease, and it’s a time of wild transition that leaves most folks feeling a little spacey.

    Time to get grounded!
    At this time of year, most of us are trying to quickly shed our winter coats that may have settled around the mid section and the hips, creating some stiffness and discomfort. Baddha Konasana is one of the most perfect poses to gently stretch your inner thighs, groin and knees that will keep you flexible from your mid morning run or post winter soccer try outs. This pose is also soothing for menstrual pain and sciatica.

    Here we go:
    I suggest that you warm up with a few down dogs or vinyasa first to heat the large muscle groups of the body. Then, before you sit down on your mat, grab a blanket and fold it up like a burrito. Sit your sit bones on the edge of the “burrito” so your pelvic bone can tilt forward and give the knees, hips and inner thighs more room to stretch, especially if you have a tight low back. Once you are in position, bring the soles of the feet together, and draw your heels up as close to the groin as possible. From there, you can grab your feet, shimmy your sit bones back a touch, and round forward over your feet.

    All together now.
    Let’s put this pose together with a few others now for a little feel good sequence, that includes forward bending to kick in the relaxation response, and a mini back bend to fire up your nervous system and bring your forward bends into balance.

    1. Sit on your “burrito” blanket in a cross-legged seat, for a seated twist. Bring the opposite hand to knee, and exhale on the twist.
    2. Bring the soles of feet together for Baddha Konasana and sit in this pose for a minute.
    3. Then, plant your feet on your mat about hip width, palms flat on the floor behind you, and lift your hips for Table Top pose. It is a half back bend.
    4. Drop your hips back down on your “burrito” and extend your legs straightforward, bending at the hips for a forward bend.

    Do this sequence 3x slowly after a run, or your workout, and you will feel amazing. Guaranteed.