Lessons From My Favorite Yoga Pose: Downward Facing Dog
What is your favorite yoga pose? There are so many incredible and challenging poses in yoga. Whether we admit it or not, those of us that have a regular practice typically have a pose that we refer to as our favorite. I have heard others mention their love of Handstand or the challenging Crow Pose, the grounded balance of Tree Pose or the hip opening love that Pigeon provides. I might shock all of you when I announce that my favorite pose is a staple almost as critical as Child’s Pose and Savasana, yet it can be challenging for many. My favorite yoga pose is Adho Mukha Svanasana, or the pose everyone knows as Downward Facing Dog, and here is why:
My yoga practice started a couple decades ago when I was in my young twenties, long before I became a military spouse. Yoga has been around for centuries, but when I explored yoga for the first time, it did not yet have the popular status it has now. My body’s inflexible nature initially shied me away until I learned that there was so much more to yoga than I had originally believed. Downward Facing Dog entered my life with Sun Salutations in my first yoga practice. Sun Salutations were a cleansing, moving meditation. I recall being proud that I could get my heals to the floor in Downward Facing Dog, and I distinctly remember one yoga instructor after another putting weight in my lower back to help me stretch deeper into the pose.
I also vividly remember the pain I experienced in Downward Facing Dog. My body absolutely hated this pose. I would take my eyes off my mat and glance around at others hoping I wasn't the only one squirming. Five breaths in this pose felt like an eternity. The wrist creases in my hands ached and my back screamed. How could anyone refer to this as a resting posture?
As my practice matured, I discovered my Downward Facing Dog. My muscles started to find their way by memory. The weight shifted to all outer corners of my palms, as my inner arms would spiral. My back released as my shoulders opened. Downward Facing Dog found me, and helped me find my connection with the earth. As I taught myself more challenging poses like Forearm Balance and Flying Pigeon, I realized that my Downward Facing Dog became the pose that I went back to, to find my balance and to feel grounded. It was a way to invert myself and stretch every fiber in my body. This pose taught me how to listen to what my body needed, and it taught me so much about the practice that I have today.
Yoga is my spiritual practice. It is more than the Om and the physical strength. It is the place I disappear to when I need to give back to myself, to listen to what my body needs, to forgive my imperfections, and to acknowledge my achievements. Yoga has become my foundation and a means to reconnect to that part of my soul that I suppress with my busy life as a military spouse, a mom of two very active young boys, and a graduate student.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is my pose of all poses. It helps me feel grounded and reminds me that my body will tell me what it needs. Downward Facing Dog is my absolute favorite yoga pose.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose? What is it, and why?