In class the other day, I heard the instructor give a bit of advice about doing downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) that I hadn't heard before. She suggested bending the elbows out to the side to let the back muscles engage, and then straightening the arms, wrapping the armpits in toward the face while maintaining that feeling of strength.
Downward Facing Dog is a yoga basic. Even people who have never practiced yoga before have heard the name. It's often among the first poses one learns in yoga.
You're never done with Downward Facing Dog. Even as one moves on to poses that more agressively challenging strength, flexibility, and balance, downward dog remains.
I've been thinking lately about the importance of the most basic elements of practice. They aren't fancy. They aren't likely to impress, but they get the job done.
In a busy time of a busy semester, the idea of going for the most extreme versions of our practice can feel overwhelming. Humble but functional, downward dog stretches and strengthens, opens and lengthens. The most basic aspects of our practice indeed form a kind of home base--a place to return to, again and again.
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