Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dog days of summer

I know many schools of yoga do not use props.  Sometimes props are thought of as a crutch, a way to make poses easier.  And that is true.  Sometimes.

Other times props are used to bring awareness to poses.  Sure, I can get my hand down to the floor in Utthita Trikonasana, but what am I giving up to bring my hand down to the floor?  What changes in the pose when I put my hand on a block?  In this example, the prop is being used to bring awareness to a certain aspect of the pose.

A third way to use props is to create work where a body part was being a little lazy.  In other words, making poses harder.  That is what we will explore today in Adho Mukha Svanasana. 

First, place a block between the thighs and squeeze that block!  This really makes the legs work like they should.  I've never heard of anyone overworking their legs.

Now, press out into a strap.  This works the legs in a different way.  Your job in Adho Mukha Svanasana is to do both - use the muscles on the inner and outer leg.

For good measure, and good measurement, place a block between your heels.  Lift the block off the floor.

Working on the other end now, place a strap directly around your elbows.  If you have tight shoulders and have trouble straightening your arms, pull your arms inward, away from the strap - make the strap looser.  If you have open shoulders and have trouble engaging your arms completely, press out into the strap - make the strap tighter.

Then move the strap up the arms, about midpoint on the upper arm.  You can press your head into the strap to open up your shoulders, or you can use it to get your head closer to the floor.  This is very similar to the arms behind the head, which is the last human picture from this post.

Now, for my favorite.  Roll up a sticky mat and place it so that the balls of your feet are on the roll, but your heels are wedged to the wall, touching the floor.  Walk your hands forward as far as possible, until you reach a version of dog pose.  There is a special stretch in the back of the calves, that I have only felt in this pose.

Of course, if you can reach the floor easily, raise the height of the floor.

Bonus round: do the same thing, but take out the sticky mat roll.  Keep the balls of the feet off the floor and walk as far forward as possible.   You may notice my dog pose is a bit short on this one; I'm well aware of that.  This works the muscles on the front of the shin like nothing else I've experienced.

Work hard, rest well.

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