January Asana of the Month

Each month we choose a pose to focus on in each class through strong attention to alignment, variations, and/or modifications as a way to grow and expand our yogic horizons. – Asana Girl (a.k.a Danielle Polen)

BKS Iyengar, in Light on Yoga, asserts that this asana “stretches the shoulders, legs, spine and whole body; builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet; relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the body; improves the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses, and calms the mind and lifts the spirits.”

Inverted poses are extremely important because they reverse the action of gravity on the body and get the blood and lymph flowing in opposite directions. On an emotional level, Adho Mukha Svanasana helps turn everything on its head and can help us see things from a different angle and, thus, a different perspective. Because of the increased blood flow to the top of the body, the pose can help improve brain function and cognition and reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, because of the weight-bearing nature of the posture on the arms and legs, Adho Mukha Svanasana helps strengthen the bones and may help prevent osteoporosis. Finally, its actions of lengthening and straightening the spine can help to relieve pain in the upper, middle, and lower back—the body gets a 360-degree stretch in just one pose!

As one of my favorite my t-shirts says: “Another day, another dog pose.”

downward facing dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Adho = Downward
Mukha = Face
Svana = Dog

Benefits (according to yogajournal.com):

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported

Cautions/Contraindications:

  • Wrist, shoulder, or elbow injuries
  • High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Preparatory Poses: 

  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
  • Plank Pose

Song that Most Comes to Mind While in the Posture:

Cat Stevens’ first hit single: “I Love My Dog” (released in 1966), from his debut album “Mathew and Son” (1967).

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