Anyone who has attended my classes will be able to tell you that without a doubt my favourite yoga posture is adho mukhasvanasana – downward-facing dog. Spending a week with me at lotus yoga lodge for sure you will be hitting double figures of down dogs by the time we reach our final savasana of the week. It is an important asana that takes time to perfect with a number of wonderful adjustments to help you find the joy in the pose.
I love this asana now but that wasn’t always the case. I remember one of my teachers explaining to me that this posture was in fact a pose that the body should be able to relax into. The thought was alien to me, I felt strained and uncomfortable, my hamstrings felt tight and my upper back tense.
“Practicing down dog every day is the only way to open your body to really find the asana” my teacher explained. It seemed I was embarking on a long journey. However, my body adapted fast and regular practice found my spine ironing and lengthening out, my upper back opening and my hamstrings stretching. Now I feel such a sigh of relief as I allow my body to flow up into down dog, making a connection with every section of my fingers and palms as they find their home on my mat. I stretch my arms, rotate my shoulders to release the blades and feel my spine lengthening and stretching as I push my tailbone towards the sky. I always gain a wonderful sense of grounding as I sink my heels into the mat, which they now comfortably reach.
It took a little time but I now have a beautiful understanding of this asana. I understand that as I inhale I am able to draw energy up through the palms of my hands, through my arms and along my back to the base of my spine. When I exhale I can drop my energy from the base of my spine down through my legs where it roots through the souls of my feet into the floor. My eyes are closed, my neck relaxed, my mind calm and clear.
“Take one asana and work to gain full understanding of it on every level, physically and energetically. We can practise many of the asanas but we will never be able to really gain full understanding and comfort in them all – dedicate time and practice into one.” Sanjay
For me, a yoga session without adho mukhasvanasana would not feel like a complete yoga sequence. It is my base asana, a place where my spine can neutralise, my breath can balance and my body can centre. A place where my mind can relax, and back tension can be released.
The yoga asanas hold a journey within every posture, a discovery with every stretch and breath. Take time to truly understand your asana practice, and enjoy the journey as your body and mind begins to open and surrender into your own postures.
Emma shows how to get the most from your down dog
About the author
|When she isn’t studying yoga in India or exploring the world, Emma Malarkey teaches at Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat always bringing back new inspiration for the team and guests. Her wide ranging yoga experience means her personal practice and teaching style incorporates many different styles, including traditional hatha, tantra, Mysore ashtanga, sivananda, iyengar, vinyasa, and more modern forms such as yin yoga and Bikram.|