Welcome to the EHM Yoga Blog! Here you will find tips and tidbits to help you fine-tune your practice. Share your experiences and get answers to your yoga questions and curiosities.
“Yoga is an old Sanskrit word meaning union or oneness. A whole person at one with himself or herself, as opposed to an inwardly divided person… Yoga is basically a tangible and practical system to help you develop as a human being… Only by using the various exercises and meditations will you feel an effect… Through yoga, consciousness is expanded in a harmonic and natural way. When the body becomes strong and supple and the mind calm, you can see your life patterns, gain perspective and above all accept what you see. You become conscious… In this acceptance you find a peace…It is an awake, participating attitude towards whatever you meet in the extremes of life.” – Yoga, Tantra and Meditation in Daily Life by Swami Janakananda Saraswati
Upward-Facing Dog Pose / Urdva Mukha Svanasana:
To set up: Begin by laying on the belly with the forehead resting on the floor. Stretch the legs back, keeping the tops of the feet in contact with the floor. Place the hands directly underneath the shoulders, fingertips pointing forward. Draw the hands back until the forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor. As you adjust the hands, the elbows will point upward; hug them into the sides of the body, broadening the upper chest.
Moving into the position: Exhale fully. As you inhale, turn the gaze forward and engage the muscles along the spine to lift the shoulders. Press the hands into the floor and slightly back, drawing the sternum forward. Now fully straighten the arms, lifting the torso. Keep the legs engaged so that the hips lift a few inches off the floor.
Working in the pose: As you press the tops of the feet firmly into the ground, keep the thighs contracted to encourage the internal rotation of the legs. Press into the ground with the inner parts of the hands, especially the ball mounts of the index fingers and thumbs. Encourage the elbow creases to face forward as the chest opens. Tuck the tailbone slightly to create a little more space in the lumbar region as you lift through the sternum and narrow the hip points. Finally, draw the shoulder blades down the back and feel them press in toward the heart. Keep the shoulders away from the ears as you lengthen through the neck and crown of the head. Gaze straight forward or upward, keeping the back of the neck long. Hold the position for 20 – 30 seconds, breathing normally.
Releasing the pose: Carefully begin to bend the arms, allow the spine to uncoil one vertebrae at a time as the belly then chest, then forehead come to rest on the ground. Relax the arms by the sides, palms face up. Turn the head to one side and breathe deeply and slowly. Allow the breath to come into the lowest parts of the abdomen. Feel the back rising as you inhale and feel relaxation along the spine as you exhale. Continue breathing until you feel the heart rate return to normal. Repeat the exercise, resting the head to the opposite side after the second set.
Benefits of practice: Upward-Facing Dog Pose improves posture and strengthens the arms, wrists and the spine. Space is created along the front of the hips, relieving the pain of sciatica. Urdva Mukha Svanasana stimulates digestion by stretching the abdominal organs. Practicing the pose regularly stretches the chest and lungs and is therapeutic for asthma and respiratory congestion. The opening in the shoulders and abdomen help to relieve mild depression and fatigue. Remember that the benefits do not end once the pose has been released. It is necessary to rest the body immediately afterward, as described above. Backward bending stimulates the cardio-vascular system, putting stress on the heart and causing an increase in heart rate. Allowing the body to rest after backward bending strengthens the cardio-vascular system and helps to regulate the blood pressure.