How many Downward Dogs does it take?
The Downward- Facing Dog is not a relaxation pose!
I’ve noticed that in many of the classes I’ve attended, yoga teachers call for this pose a lot. Also known as the Adho Mukha Svanasana this pose, if done correctly, is quite strenuous as it lifts the upper rib cage, places weight on the wrists and hands and requires strong legs and already stretched hamstrings and ankles. Proper alignment, the placement and distance of the hands and feet and a release in the lower back are all important to reaping the benefits of this pose.
So why would yoga teachers assume that all students -even beginners- would not only be able to intuitively figure out this demanding pose but also be able to repeat it, sometimes a dozen times, in the course of an hour long yoga class? It’s strange to notice how certain poses seem to become very popular. Perhaps yoga teachers like it because it is so dynamic?
But by no means is this a relaxation pose, although I’ve seen it used as such. It’s true that you can experience a lightness in the body, especially if you get a supported lift from your teacher but it requires the muscles to be quite taut, like a tent over round bamboo poles. Hardly a relaxation pose. No doubt, it feels good to come into it after any hip opener poses but seems like too much of even a good thing – will end up being -just too much.
I love this pose, but I don’t think of it as a relaxation pose, either. Rather, I love it for the good, almost primal, stretch it gives to my body.