Or, how I learned yoga from my dog.
I’ve been stalking my dog Loki with the camera to catch her doing Ahdomukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and Urdhvamukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) because she does them so well. Sadly, I’m not quick enough with the shutter. Of course, her poses don’t look exactly like the bi-pedal versions (or maybe that’s the other way around), but I can see through her where the inspiration came from and I better understand my teacher’s instructions about lengthening.
Downward-Facing Dog is good for stretching and strengthening the shoulders and the legs. It’s also a resting pose that can calm the brain and slow down the heart, although I have to admit when I first started practicing I thought this was crazy talk. Upward-Facing Dog is a backbend. It allows the chest to expand and the whole front body to lengthen.
When I do these poses I tend to think about the weight of my body on my hands and shoulders and in the case of Upward-Facing Dog the curve in my lower back. When Loki does these poses it’s clear that it’s all about lengthening. She almost floats off the floor. Her spine gets longer. She stretches so completely that there’s a little juddering motion as the energy flows up and out.
Lately I’ve been trying to mimic her poses. She is no help at all. She just wants to play, but I do my best in spite of her nudges and nips. In Downward-Facing Dog, I focus less on my weight against the floor and more about lengthening upward all the way from the palms of my hands and up my legs from the arches of my feet. I try imagine my hips touching the ceiling. In Upward-Facing Dog, I think less about my lower back and more about curving my upper back and lengthening out through the top of my head. I’m not floating like Loki yet, but I can see how I might get there someday.