I subscribe to the theory that the origins of downward dog evolved from the ancient yogis. They, like us, spent a lot of time sitting. They, like us, most likely had wandering minds and their share of distractions. They, like us, eventually gave in to boredom or biology and had to get up.
Animals have the pleasure of no mind. They move their bodies by instinct in response to what is around them and what they need. Rest, run, hunt, eat and stretch. The theory is that the sitting yogis got up and began to mimic the stretches of the animals around them.
The upside down v shape of downward dog looks easy. It is a simple shape that engages fingertips to toes and boasts of many benefits. In some yoga classes, downward dog is called a “rest” pose, however, for it may be brand new for you or still be a challenge. If you’re new to yoga or you have tight hamstrings, cranky shoulders or a past injury you’ll want to take care with downward dog to make sure it is working for you and not causing any further complications.
So what to do? Abandon downward dog completely? Let’s take this pose apart to find a new entry point and a variation you can do at your desk. This pose we call desk dog. But before I go on, stand up. Follow along with me. It’s worth a try.
Stand with your hands on the edge of your desk, shoulder-width apart, fingers spread wide, pressing the joints of the balls of your hands into the desk, like you are making a handprint into clay with the full hand on the desk. Step back, with your head in between the arms and make a 90-degree angle with your hips so your torso is parallel to the desk and floor and your legs are perpendicular to the floor.
Bend the knees a bit and then press your thigh bones back into your hamstrings. Feel your tailbone is pulling away from your hands, the crown of your head pressing toward the space in between your hands for a spine stretch. Let the shoulders soften and breathe. Enjoy four to eight long, deep breaths inhaling and exhaling. See how many areas of your body you can awaken back to life.
To release the pose just step forward and lift the head back up. This is an inversion, your head below the heart, and it shifts the blood flow, so come back up easily. Stand tall and take a few deep breaths as you become upright again.
Desk dog is easy to do during the day at work or in the kitchen or at the dinner table. Make it a part of your week. Could you do this pose three times today? Morning, noon and night? What might be your reminder?
Let me know how you do?