Wednesday, October 22, 2008

House-breaking the Dog

Whoops, got a little side-tracked this week helping the husb. put together his tenure package. By Monday nite he was pretty fried and needed some help organizing about a million student evaluations and making everything look pretty. Those of you who are academics, or love an academic, know how lively things have been around our house. Now the waiting begins...

So, I've been hearing about the Dog, and thinking about my own Dogs. I've got some modifications for you to try that I often do, anyway, because it shifts things around in the pose and keeps it interesting:

Hands around a block at the wall
-try placing a block between the thumbs and index fingers (the fingers will make an "L" around the bottom and side edge) and press the front edge of the block at the wall. Measure out your dog from Child's Pose, so your arms are stretched straight out from the shoulders before you come up. Lift up into Dog, letting the pressure of the hands against the block help stabilize the arms. Straighten the arms and torso first, keeping the knees soft and then open the backs of the legs as you straighten them.

Belt around the upper arms-make a loop with your belt and tighten it, so that it is about the width of your shoulders. Then slip this loop around the arms and above the elbows. When you come into Dog this also stabilizes the arms, by helping keep them straight. It is good for people with weaker arms. You have to fuss around with the placement, tho, because it can get in the way of your head.

Heels to the wall-This is a good shoulder opener, but is also nice for students whose heels don't reach the floor. Position yourself against the wall, so that as you come up the heels rest against the wall about 3 inches off the floor. This will create greater rotation in the shoulders, and give you more support in your legs. If the rotation is too much, walk the hands forwards to open up the "V" of the body, and lower the heels slightly.

Soften knees-I suggest this to students all the time, because if they have tight shoulders they tend to do a modified Plank, rather than Dog, making the pose much more difficult for the arms. As you come up, keep the knees bent until the upper body is in a straight line, then start unbending the knees (never think about forcing the heels down...better to visualize the legs lengthening). If the head starts to pop up between the arms, bend the knees again. I think it is better to keep the upper body aligned in this pose, rather than fixate on whether your feet are flat on the floor.

Whadaya think? Does any of this help? Give you ideas?

P.S. I got a massage on Monday (trading classes with a excellent is that?!?), and was told that the tightness in my left shoulder extends diagonally across my back to the right hip. Totally logical, since I thrust the left hip out to support the baby, thus fouling up my alignment completely. That would explain why a long-held, twisting standing pose was not all that enjoyable...should we do Vrksasana (Tree Pose) next?


Sarah said...

recently found your blog--love it!

i'd love to read about tree pose next....i have a hard time with balance poses in general, so it'd be good to work on!!

Kristin said...

I have heard that the body "triangulates" when things are out of whack, that issues will show up in that diagonal/triangular fashion. That is pretty facintating.

I've done the soft knees's for my students and I love the suggestion to keep lengthening the legs rather than focusing on the heels. And observing the head popping up between the arms is a good cue as well, especially with nature of an ashtanga and vinyasa class, props are a bit harder for me to fit in.

Mary said...

The strap around my arms is always helpful, because arthritis has made my arms not go straight any more.

I'm lucky enough to have ropes at home too, so I can do downward-facing dog with the ropes at the top of my thighs. I usually put cut-up sticky mats between the ropes and my incredibly tight adductors.

Yay, Vrksasana! Some years ago I forced myself to do at least one balancing pose a day so that I would quit falling over in class. It's amazing how quickly you can improve with practice.

Brenda P. said...

I love tree, because, even tho it is a beginning pose, it feels like some deep yoga work is happening. I also love seeing students "get" it, because it looks harder than it is.

Sarah--let me know how the balancing goes

Kristin--the belt on the arms is helpful, but can be sort of annoying if it gets in the way...I usually do my dogs prop-free

Mary--of course, if the belt works, that's great. I envy the home ropes...

heather said...

Wow I'm way late with this comment but I had to share another modification that I help plug the arms into the shoulder sockets, you can bend the elbows and point them out away from the body. The draw the shoulders down away from the ears and engage the abs before you straighten the arms back out. Love this one because I have so many issues with shoulder and neck tightness - this really helps!