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(Sorry, all! I have been side-tracked with my Ignite Your Life program the last few weeks and haven't posted much. I have a few ideas I still want to post before moving on to this month's pose.)
I spoke about grounding points in a previous pose. Here is great photo of really grounded hands. This student is pressing so firmly through the palms. When the palms are pressed firmly, you are able to lift up and out of them more easily so you can open the chest more fully.
You can see MuseKaren here getting a huge lift in her chest with her shoulders drawing firmly down. I like to have students practice in this position (I call it "The Sitting Dog" :-) ) because there is no strength needed and they can get the feel of what I want them to do without needing to struggle.
I taught Up Dog in class tonight. We worked on engaging the upper back more to get more back bend into it to open the heart more. Here is the adjustment we did with partners.
I have a strap around her upper back, coming around just under her armpits. I am pulling with my hands as I press with my feet on her upper arms. The person in the pose really needs to engage the legs strongly otherwise this position can settle into the lower back. (You need to learn how to engage the legs really well to open up the upper back without support as well. The engagement of the legs is integral to a healthy back in this pose.) We added a block between the legs to help her feel her legs. We also had a second partner stand on her toes and the balls of her feet to help her further ground the legs.
Here is a better photo of the foot position and the strap.
In all yoga poses we have a grounding point (or several). The grounding point needs to be strong, confident, in order for the pose to be in integrity. Think about Tadasana (Mountain Pose). If you are “hesitant” on your feet, the pose sags and is weak. In this month’s pose, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose), the grounding points are your hands and feet. The hands might be more obvious, you need to press firmly through the entire palms to fully work the hand. The feet are more elusive. How can you press on your feet well to activate the body? Do you press down? Do you press out (as if your toes are pressing on a wall?) Play with this thought...I am curious to hear what you discover.
Here are some ideas for studying the pose. Please share if you have other ideas:
1. Play with how strong your legs need to extend. How far can you engage before they feel rigid? How far can you release before they are sagging? Where is your happy medium? 2. What can you do to get more openness in the upper back? Can you so something with your arms to create more openness? Legs? Core? 3. Play with going into the pose through a flow (Adho Mukha Svanasana to Chaturanga Dandasana) or pushing up from the ground. Compare the two with no judgment. What I mean is, assume one is not better than the other (and even let go of preferences...have a Beginner’s Mind), they are just different and teaching you something different. What is each one teaching you? 4. What pose do you feel like doing when you are done with this pose? Why?