I am a ridiculous dog lover.
Like a little kid with no pup at home, I stop owners of adorable pooches to ask (to the embarrassment of any actual grown-up who might be walking with me):
“Can I pet your dog?”
I love dogs of all kinds: purebreds, mongrels, purse puppies or huge Newfies. I love frisky sharp-toothed pups and sweet grey-whiskered elderly hounds. So why is it that the one dog I have been forced to interact with on a near-daily basis is a dog I just don’t want to love?
Downward Facing Dog.
Could it be because my previous yoga background is in Bikram, in which the 26-pose series does not include Down Dog? Could it be that the way I am built does not put me into a stretchy lithe greyhound-like pose, but rather like a weary St. Bernard (complete with the drool if I don’t watch it)? Could it be that I am just lazy and don’t relish having to hold my lovely ample butt so far up in the air?
I have mentioned to various teachers that the pose seems to put undue strain on my wrists and too much weight on my front end. I have had my hips pulled up and back (“whoa, where are we going?”), been encouraged to roll my mat to force the weight into my knuckles, and told to redistribute my body’s gravity to my hips (“you mean those hips that are up in the air?”). Sometimes it gets better. Other times I just grimace and bear it.
Down Dog is supposed to be a resting pose! I do not find it restful. I find it mildly torturous. A Bikram teacher I know used to advise the class—usually during half-locust pose, with our arms trapped under our bodies and quivering legs attempting to rise while our faces were smashed into our sweaty towels— “The pose you hate the most will become the pose you love the most!”
It never happened.
But I resolve to make my peace with Downward Facing Dog, as there is no avoiding the mangy mutt. He is everywhere, ready to pop his sniffy nose around each corner and goose my hips up higher while I try to breathe calmly as if it is a kindergarten puppy trick—no big deal. Sit and stay.
I know I can conquer this discomfort, this dog-phobia, and soon I will be frolicking with Down Dog just like I do with any other canine I see. Much as I hate to, I will include this pose in my self-practice must-do list, divided into poses I can do well and poses that are difficult, both of which I need to do daily.
I am sorry to say, however, that half-locust did not make the list…Oh well!
Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of Elephant Journal and is honored to be a part of the herd. Watch for more ele-posts as she attempts to maintain a steady yoga practice while traveling solo through South America! (YIKES!) You can read more at her blog here, follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.
Article prepared by Assistant Yoga Editor: Soumyajeet Chattaraj.