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10 Essential Postures- #1 DOG
I’m so freaking excited to share this practice with you – it’s been in the works for years!
10 weeks of practice, one pose a week, 10 minutes a day
Below you’ll find a transcript of the lesson. If you prefer to watch rather than read, scroll down to the video link.
These are the postures, that after 20 years of practice and 14 years of teaching, I think are most essential. They can be practiced safely and are likely to be the most therapeutic for everyone with a human body (that includes a brain.) They are also the postures that I think are most important to integrate into daily life, with all of its obstacles and distractions, patterns and expectations.
That doesn’t mean the classical version is the right one for you.
I’ll show you how to find the version that best suits your body’s current needs, and, how to adapt when those needs change.
With each pose, we’ll consider
1. Contraindications (that will require modification)
2. Which muscles to warm-up/wake-up
3. Ideal alignment of bones
4. Direction for energy and intention
Please pay attention to this process in order to see how it works! Here’s a form that you can use to track your progress: click to download.
First up: DOG POSE
If you’re a cat person, I invite you to embody that (or any other) four-legged spirit!
If you currently have inflammation in your hands, wrists, shoulders, or in the backs of your legs, start with the most accessible version of this pose and wait 24-36 hours to see the effect. If your inflammation level stays the same or decreases, you can continue to practice that version. If it increases, wait another 24-36 hours before trying again.
If you have glaucoma or notice pressure behind your eyes, keep your head above your heart.
This might be your whole practice for the first few days of the week. Be inquisitive and patient as you listen for feedback from each of these parts as you move them.
Bring attention and gentle movement to:
Hands – stretch fingers
Wrists – move hands in circles
Shoulders – circle shoulders, then elbows, then whole arm forwards and backwards
Side body – lean side to side (with arms overhead if easy)
Backs of legs – stretch legs (one at a time) out in front of you, bend and straighten several times – can be done reclining or standing, can also massage and/or use foam roller or other method to awaken calf muscles
Feet – stretch toes away from each other, point and flex
3. Ideal alignment of bones
Think of the shape of this pose. The classical version is a triangle – the top of the triangle should be the bottom of the pelvis (otherwise known as the “sit” bones or technically, the ischial tuberosities.) The torso and arms line up to make one side of the triangle, the legs make another and the line on the ground between the hands and the feet makes the third. Look/feel for extra angles in your posture. Little steps up the sides will be necessary as you make your way towards the ideal alignment. Your knees may be bent, your shoulders might be poking forward… this is ok as long as you’re remaining attentive. You might also use a rectangular shape like table top to practice being four-legged with less intensity.
It takes connective tissue 6-24 months to release old patterns and reform new ones, and that’s with dedicated practice. Please be persistent and patient as you coax yours towards more efficient alignment.
4. Direction for energy and intention
Once the bones are aligned you can drive them down into the earth. The muscles of the back body you can think of flowing down the sides of the triangle… then at the ground there is an updraft – the muscles of the front body (including and starting at the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet) are lifting to the pinnacle that is the crux where the upper body and lower body part ways in this pose. Look for lightness there.
Also, embody your best doggy nature… wag your tail, walk around, wiggle and assume that everything/everyone you encounter is your best friend.
Develop a mantra to help you stay focused on the intention for this posture and the effect that it may bring into others… Use the framework “May I be ________.” This can be a physical and/or an energetic intention.
“May I be friendly.”
“May I be well aligned.”
“May I be light.”
Warm-up, wake-up and set your intention.
Set your feet hip distance apart (or wider) so that you feel stable. If you’re comfortable on the floor you can start on your knees.
Bend forward and set your hands out in front of you (could be on a wall, a piece of furniture, or the floor.)
* If there’s inflammation in your hands, wrists or shoulders you can curl your fingers (around the seat of a chair, on blocks or just by gripping more than flattening the hands.) You can also take your hands wider apart and/or turn your thumbs away from the midline.
Take 3-5-10 breaths (decide on the measure that is most appropriate for you) with alignment and energetic awareness, then come out of the pose. If there is pain, shortness of breath or anger, rest or shake it out.
If there is no pain, shortness of breath or anger, repeat and step the feet back farther. If you’re on your hands and knees, stretch one leg back at a time until you’re in plank pose. Or, take the hands out past the shoulders as far as you can into puppy dog pose.
Take 3-5-10 breaths, then come out of the pose. If there is pain, shortness of breath or negativity, rest or shake it out. If there is no pain, shortness of breath or negativity, repeat and step the feet back farther. If you’re coming from plank or puppy dog pose, lift the pelvis.
If/when you’re comfortable with all of the above, you can start experimenting with other variations: up dog, three-legged dog, fire hydrant dog, etc… Focus on smooth transitions, easy breathing, and joy! Be still in between movements and extend the stillness for as long as you’re able.
Yay! You did it! Mark your calendar with impressions and questions and remind yourself what time you scheduled for tomorrow’s practice. Remember to download the practice tracker to help with this!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Every little bit that you do makes such a difference in the world. I know it can be hard to see in the moment but trust the process, track your progress and you’ll see…