Tonight I really wanted to write about one of the most important poses in the asana lexicon, Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward-facing Dog Pose. But I also wanted to acknowledge the excitement in the air with the near passing of 2011.
So, I think I can combine the two with a little story of a New Year’s Eve dinner I had with an old beau years ago in the Sydney Opera House district. We were dining early, dressed in party gear, enjoying the ambience of an elegant restaurant. We booked so early that there were no patrons in our section; the waiter had whisked himself off to fill our drinks orders, so we were alone. Tony took the opportunity to stretch out in a dog pose, while the room was empty. I saw the waiter come up behind him but there was no time for me to warn him. Quick as a flash, Tony said that he’d lost his contact lens and was just looking around for it. The waiter seemed to sniff at this communication but somehow managed to be deferential.
Have you ever tried to sneak a pose in when no one was looking?
I’ve been bold enough to do Adho Mukha Svanasana in airport terminals but only out of desperation when I’ve been trapped in long transit times. Why don’t yoga teachers set up studios at airports? It seems like a natural.
As for Adho Mukha Svanasana, or as Shandor Remete used to call it “dog with the face down”, I can’t think of a more all-rounder pose. A portable posture that you can do surreptitiously if needed, hold for long timings as an experienced practitioner, and modify as a beginner to mollify screaming hamstrings.
Adho Mukha Svanasana works every fibre and cell of your body: shoulders, scapulae, wrists, rib cage, core muscles, pelvis, and thighs, knees, calves, achilles tendons and feet. Discovering your alignment in the pose brings you into the moment; finding freedom in the pose can be both a life-long journey and a serendipitous experience.

Sue Ellen Kohler1990

At times when I needed to do the pose in a more therapeutic way, I would hang off wall ropes or have a helper stretch me with a belt around my hips. Here’s another version, nicknamed “lazy dog pose”, which gives some of the benefits of being upside down with a focus on creating space in the hip joints.

Lazy Dog Pose

In whatever way you are celebrating the arrival of a new year, I wish you a wonderful passage into it. May you be bathed in friendship, love, warmth, and well-being and extend all of these qualities out into the world.