Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dog, Plank, Dog, Plank, Dog

In the category of “if you only have 10 minutes” yoga, I’d like to add a sequence that’s great for the abs and upper body. It’s sort of a yoga push-up without the push. The Dogs are (almost) the resting poses, and the work comes from the Plank and the movement between each pose. Try to move slowly and with control. It’s also a good series to pull out if you are feeling cold and sluggish; the Dogs will energize you and the Plank will get the heart pumping.
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog) Start the series in a well-measured dog. Begin in Balasana (Child’s Pose) with the arms stretched in front of you and then lift up to your hands and knees. Your outstretched arms should now be placed with the heels of the hands beneath the shoulders. Lift the hips up and back, with the knees bent to get the upper body aligned and then press the thighs back to begin straightening the legs. Don’t worry about pressing the heels to the floor--as you lengthen the backs of the legs the heels will start to sink. Hold for 5 breaths.

2. Plank Pose On the next exhale, slowly lower your hips so that the body is now in a straight line: ears-shoulders-hips-ankles. The heels of the hands should still be directly under the shoulders. Keep the neck long and the breath even. Don’t let the lower back sag or the hips lift up. Lower a knee if you need to support the lower back. The majority of the work in this pose will be in the chest and abdominal muscles. Hold for 5 breaths.

3. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-facing Dog) On the next exhale, slowly lower your hips down until the legs are straight and the torso is upright. If this is too hard on your lower back, slightly bend the knees and rest them on the floor and uncurl the toes; the lower body is supported by your legs on the floor. Keep the neck long and open the chest by drawing your shoulder blades slightly together in back. The heels of the hands are still under the shoulders and you are pressing the hands evenly into the floor. Hold for 5 breaths.

4. Plank Pose On the next exhale, lift the hips back to the straight line and try not to drop the head. Hold for 5 breaths.

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) On the next exhale, lift the hips back to your Down Dog position. Try to lengthen the side ribs so that the arms are fully extended and the sit bones lift to the ceiling. Breathe deeply and don’t let the shoulders sag. Hold for 5 breaths then repeat the sequence at least one more time.

6. Balasana (Child’s Pose) Release onto the floor in a fully-supported Child. Rest your head on a block if your heart rate has come up and let your breath slow and deepen. Relax your arms alongside the body and feel yourself sink towards the floor. Hold the pose for as long as you like. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

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