Upward facing dog is the first posture where you start to establish the patterns for back bending. It’s the patterns that are going to eventually help you get into the deeper and more advanced back bends.
When I’m stuck in an advanced posture I always go back to its building blocks in basic postures, which are conveniently placed at the beginning of every Ashtanga yoga sequence. I imagine this will be a lifelong process of going back to the foundations and finding more subtler experiences of them. Which is why I think an intro class can serve any level. It’s intended for beginners but there’s something to learn for any level practitioner when slowing things down and allowing ourselves the space to rediscover the inner workings of a basic posture.
Establish the patterns for back bending.
It’s important to create the right foundation right from the beginning with upward facing dog. In order to do that, we’re going to come into a sphinx position, to start to understand some of the movement mechanics involved in upward facing dog. Where your forearms are on the ground, and your elbows are underneath your shoulders. First thing, you’re going to point the toes, and press the tops of the feet into the mat. Engaging the legs, and lifting the knee caps. And then you’re going to pull the lower belly in, towards the spine.
Create space in the front side of the body, a main objective of back bending.
And this part is really important. You’re going to press the elbows down. Shoulders down. You are going to sort of like drag the elbows back towards your ribs. You’re pushing the elbows back towards the ribs. That gives you the leverage to push the ribcage forward, and up, away from the hips. This helps to create space in the front side of the body, which is one of the main objectives in back bending. Pressing the tops of the feet into the mat, engaging through the legs, and then moving the elbows back. Ribcage forward, stretching the front side of the body.
Translate the principles of Sphinx into Upward Facing Dog.
Translating these same principles into upward facing dog, you bring your hands underneath the shoulders. Straighten the arms. Press the shoulders down. Tops of the feet on the mat. Press into the tops of the feet. Engage through the legs. Drag the hands back. Ribcage forward, as you pull the lower belly in towards the ribs. Shoulders down, and breathe.
By Monica Arellano
Monica Arellano is a Level 2 Authorized teacher in the Ashtanga Yoga Method; a formal blessing received by her teacher R. Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. She first connected with the practice of yoga in 2010, looking for a more peaceful way of being. When she found her way to Miami Life Center in 2014 she began a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and soon after completed a 2 year apprenticeship program under Tim Feldmann. Today she continues to practice, teach and travel regularly to Mysore, India to learn yoga directly from the source.
Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, proper foundations and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper intention of Asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique body and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.