Archive for How-to

Pose Post – Downward Dog

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

I thought it would be best to start off with the pose that inspired this blog’s name, and also a great pose for beginners. Downward Dog is an easy pose and has several variations for those just learning yoga – you can slightly bend your legs, or alternate bending your legs (first one, then the other, then back to the first one, and so on) as you relax into the pose. I find this especially helpful if you are doing your first downward dog of the day. If your heels don’t touch the floor, don’t worry too much – this may come with time or perhaps your muscles just don’t stretch that way.

If you need to use two blocks under your hands, go for it. It may make the pose more comfortable or easier for you.

Concentrate on straightening and lengthening your spine. Attempt to rest on your palms instead of your wrists. This can be tricky at first. Also focus on bringing your shoulders back, down, and away from your ears. Press down through your heels as much as you can (don’t stand up on your toes) and push your seat bones back towards the wall behind you. Bring your chest towards your thighs and relax your neck.

According to one of my instructors, downward dog is one of the most, if not the most, common poses in yoga. It is considered a resting pose, but trust me, as a beginner, it is far from restful!

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The Downward Dork’s Guide to Starting Yoga

I always wanted to take a yoga class. For years I tried to contort myself into positions on a tiny patch of floor in my student accommodation, and when classes were available, there was always a reason (or an excuse) why it wasn’t going to work for me – classes were at the wrong time of day, were too far away, too expensive.

Forget the excuses! Forget not being able to find the time – make the time! I finally did and I’m going to share a few pointers to help you on your way. 🙂

Someday I hope to be able to do this pose!(Picture Source)

Yoga is a relatively gentle form of exercise (especially if you are taking beginner classes) but if you have had any injuries or ailments that might affect your practice or you aren’t sure about a new exercise regime’s impact on your body, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor.

If that’s all good and you’re ready to go, it’s time to dive right in!

Find a yoga studio or a gym that offers yoga classes in your city or town. As a former bedroom yogi, I know it is possible to do yoga in the comfort of your own home (even in your pajamas). But I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to attend a few classes to make sure your form is correct and that you are focusing on the right thing at the right time. Even if you do want to growl through tiger pose in the middle of your living room, taking some classes is a fantastic way to meet new people and make a commitment to doing yoga at a certain time of the week. If you are in the UK, check out localyogaclasses.co.uk or do a Google search for classes in your area. If you’re in the USA and have an iPhone, try out the Mindbody app which will locate a nearby yoga class. Friends might be able to recommend a studio or maybe your local gym holds yoga classes. They’re out there – you just have to find them!

Recruit a friend. Doing a yoga class together can be as good as meeting for coffee or going to a movie with a good friend. You will have a chance to catch up before and after class and learn something new together, which will give you even more to talk about! If you can’t find a friend willing to take a class with you, take one anyway – it can take a bit of courage to walk into the yoga studio alone for the first time, but I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Capris like these are great for yoga.(Picture Source)

Get yourself some yoga-friendly clothes. This might be easier than you’d expect because you can wear anything you want to practice yoga! The capris above are from Sweaty Betty and I wear similar ones which I also use for running. As long as you are comfortable in it, you can wear it while doing yoga. Do be aware that yoga involves a lot of bending and moving – make sure your underwear (or worse!) stays well hidden by doing some squats in the changing room or your bedroom before purchasing/wearing your chosen garments. As for the top half of your body, I would recommend a shirt that fits you well – it’s not fun to get a face full of t-shirt when you do your first downward dog. This doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive either – the t-shirt I wear was £4 from H&M and, truth be told, sometimes I wear old shirts that were consigned to the pajama drawer just because they fit snugly and won’t get in my way.

If you are going to be doing Bikram or hot yoga, it is best to keep clothing as minimal as possible (while still looking like the classy person you are, of course). Shorts and a tank top are a good choice because you can expect to get exceptionally hot and sweaty in these classes!

Also on this topic is the issue of a bra. I practice in the same bra I use for running, but it may not be necessary for you to invest in a proper sports bra for yoga. Again, go with what you are comfortable with, something that will hold you in but not restrict any of your movements. You may also be able to buy a tank top that has built-in support (not necessarily from Luluemon!).

Expensive mats are nice but not necessary if you are just starting out.(Picture Source)

Don’t invest in an expensive mat. If you are new to yoga, you certainly don’t need one. Even if you are old to yoga, you may choose not to buy a mat because most studios or gyms will offer them to students free or at a very minimal charge. If you do decide to practice at home, you probably will need to buy a mat. Do your research before buying one, though, as there are a wide range of mats available in different lengths, thicknesses, and prices, and you want to make sure you buy the one that’s right for your practice.

Triangle pose.

(Picture Source)

Don’t be afraid to modify poses, especially when you are first starting out. Chances are you won’t be alone, and like all exercise, you don’t want to risk injuring yourself. Doing a pose with a block – or two – is not a sign that you aren’t good at yoga. Some poses require blocks and you’re not ‘tough’ or ‘a pro’ if try not to use one. It is better to look like a newbie than an idiot 🙂

If you are especially tight in a certain area, ask your yoga teacher for some help. In my first class, we had ten minutes of individual reflection and practice, and I sat on my mat confused and helpless, watching the people around me as they flowed from one pose to another. This was when I was able to ask the teacher what to do about my stiff, tight shoulders, and she showed me some moves (the top half of Eagle pose, as I found out a week later) that not only gave me something to practice, but brought relief to my weary sitting-at-a-desk-all-day muscles.

If this cat can do yoga, so can you!(Picture Source)

Keep your mind and your heart open, and don’t get discouraged. I am about as flexible as a piece of Swedish-made furniture (I can only bend so far before breaking!) and initially I wasn’t sure I would be able to get anything out of yoga. If you enjoy your class or your practice, and you feel empowered or relaxed by it, then there’s no good reason to stop. Practice makes perfect with everything, including yoga!

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