Taming the Dog

Chandana Bhowmick deconstructs adho mukha svanasana — a foundational yoga posture that’s essential to daily practice.

I started exploring yoga in 2000, and at first, my practice was all about asanas. As I kept practising over the years, I found a deeper meaning and purpose to my practice.  In 2009, I quit my job in banking and insurance and decided to pursue yoga. I discovered ashtanga in 2010 when I tried a class in Rishikesh, and soon after, I arrived in Mysore to study under the guidance of Paramguru Sharath Jois.

Practising ashtanga has made me emotionally stronger. Before I practised yoga, I wasn’t very well-equipped at managing setbacks that life threw at me. But with regular practise, as my body became strong, so did my mind, focus and attention. The same strength passed on to my emotions as well and I’ve learned to react to success and failure equally. The ashtanga series constantly challenges the practitioner as we learn to manoeuvre our body, breath and mind on the mat, and the same self-awareness is carried forward off the mat.

One of the foundational postures of ashtanga or any other system of yoga is adho mukha svanasana. In the ashtanga series, it is practised during surya namaskars and throughout the practice as a transitional pose between asanas and vinyasa. The downward-facing dog pose is an important asana that works to lengthen the spine, it builds awareness of how to use your arms which helps with arm balancing poses, and it stretches the hamstrings and glutes. On a mental level, it calms the mind and helps you feel more centred. Here’s a deconstruction of adho mukha svanasana.

Deconstructing the Downward-Facing Dog Pose

1. If you’re a complete beginner, come on to your hands and knees. Your knees should be in-line with your hips and your palms placed slightly ahead of your shoulders.

2. Inhale and lift your tailbone, straighten your legs and move your heels towards the floor (if possible). Your palms should be firmly pressed into the floor, with your fingers spread out. Your weight should be equally distributed on your palms and feet, and your neck should be relaxed as you gaze at your navel. Push your shoulders away from the ears and pull-up your knee caps to engage your quads. Don’t drop your ribcage towards the floor. Stay in the pose and breathe for a minimum of five deep breaths.

Chandana Bhowmik is a Pune-based Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher. Find her teaching schedules here.

January 18, 2020
Photos Simon Meier

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