Get Grounded in the New Year with Downward Facing Dog
Local yoga instructor Kristen Addicks highlights a fundamental pose to ground ourselves for January.
After the whirl and swirl of the crazy holiday season, it is time to settle back down. Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MUK-ha Shvuh-NAH-suh-na), will help settle into the New Year.
In this pose, the upper half of the body has an upward channel of energy that keeps us going. This helps us accomplish all the things we need to get done. The lower half of our body has energy channels that keep us grounded. These energy channels are called Vayus: this image illustrates these channels well.
When you flip your upper body over and place both your hands and feet down firmly, it puts that upward energy is in reverse, so that you are doubly connected to the ground. All of a sudden, everything shifts and tension starts to roll off your back. During a yoga class, it often feels like there is a collective exhale from the entire class when we enter the pose for the first time.
In our culture, there is an emphasis on upward energy, and even more so during the busy holiday season. This makes Downward Facing Dog particularly a relief just after the holidays.
Do Downward Facing Dog often as you settle into the New Year. Let go of all of those things that did not serve you well in yesteryear. From here, we can begin again.
- To start, come down onto your hands and knees. Put your hands shoulder width apart, with your knees hips width apart with the feet right behind.
- Curl your toes, and lift your hips.
- Root down with your whole hands, fingertips and knuckle pads too. Focus on the inside of the hand, on your index finger and thumb side.
- Lengthen from the wrists to the hips. Go for a nice, long spine. If you have rounding in the lower back, or feel a strain there, softly bend your knees.
- Keep the arms straight and keep the width in the shoulders. Rebound energy up the arms and shoulders away from the floor and the ears.
- Release your head and neck. As you gaze toward your legs and feet, make sure your feet are hip width apart.
- Lift the quadriceps and stretch the hamstrings. Press the thighs back, including at the inseam of your legs.
- Imagine widening the sit bones.
- If you are very muscular or tight in the shoulders, take your hands a little farther than shoulder width, and the wrists and the fingers can fan out slightly.
- If you have wrist issues, roll the front of your mat a few times and place the wrists on the roll. Or you can bring the hands up onto foam blocks.
- For tight hamstrings, try taking the feet slightly farther apart, or lift the heels and take a slight bend in the knees. Explore what feels best in your body.
Kristen Addicks has been practicing yoga for 25 years and teaches in Marin at Sukha Yoga, Some Like it Hot Yoga & Boutique, and Rolling Hills Country Club. Kristen believes that being out in nature is also part of the yoga experience. Therefore, she feels fortunate to have been able to call Marin County home for over 20 years. When not in a yoga studio, she can be found hiking or in some nearby body of water. Kristen leads yoga+adventure retreats where she combines yoga with adventurous activities in a beautiful location that includes sun, water, wildlife and culture.