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Downward-Facing Dog energises and rejuvenates the entire body. It deeply stretches your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine while building strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs. Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions, such as Headstand) and holds all the benefits of inversions: Relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression. The flow of blood to the brain also calms the nervous system, improves memory and concentration, and relieves stress.


Practising Downward Dog will warm, strengthen, and stretch the entire body. You can use it as a transitional pose (between other poses), or as a full-body stretch on its own. Try a few rounds of Downward Dog during your day to increase blood flow and energy while calming your mind! You may find the benefits extend to all areas of your life, even off the mat.


Cautions

Do not practice Downward-Facing Dog if you have severe carpal tunnel syndrome or are in late-term pregnancy. It should also be avoided by those with injury to the back, arms, or shoulders; and by those with high blood pressure, eye or inner ear infections. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practising yoga.


Get in touch if you are interested in trying yoga or wish to improve your postures and alignment.

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If you are of an age, like me, you may recall those little toys that have a figure on the top of a plastic base. The base had a spring that when the underneath of the base was pushed caused the figure atop to collapse, when released, the figure would become straight and upright.



I often use this figure to compare functional movement when I teach my yoga classes, let me clarify.

Pilates and yoga teach us that we need to have a strong core to move safely and with stability, avoiding injury, moving without dysfunction i.e functional movement.

When we move through the sequences in the yoga I teach we learn to engage the core, exhale recruit more engagement and then load the body with movement. This act will stabilise the spine ensuring safe controlled movement, we actually glide through space rather than launch into the movement and land. Couple this process with regulation of the breath and it becomes an all engaging mindful activity.

We are never really taught how to move, it is instinctive although through developing these techniques and awareness, the brain and nervous systems over time will create new neural connections, build more muscle fibre and improve overall integrity of movement. This is clearly evident when you see an experience yogi moving through the practice.

This will also benefit anyone away from the yoga mat. Ever wondered why the back may ache the next day after a day spent in the garden? Most likely that we have put the lower spine under stress and the dysfunctional movement therein has traumatised the deep muscles and connective tissue. I noticed myself that with conscious engagement of my core when carrying out any such physical activity really pays off the next day.

This is not just the core either, shoulders are another area where we incur injuries through seemingly innocuous movement. Many people suffer rotator cuff, shoulder impingement and, worse case, frozen shoulder issues these days. Yoga teaches us to stabilise the scapula when moving and holding the postures, I sound like a stuck record on this point in my classes having endured impingement in the past before I tool up yoga. Becoming aware of the functional movement of the shoulder girdle will empower people to protect the rotator cuff, reducing the risk of this nasty injury.

So, coming back to the little plastic toy, our intention through yoga is to move our bodies when the button at the base is not pressed, we have strength and stability through the body through the movement.

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“Chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in” I can still picture the drill instructor bearing down at me during #RAF basic training and screaming into my ‘shell like’

Little did we both know in that moment that this drill instructor was actually going through the finer points of Tadasana, mountain pose in yoga. Perhaps he did and was actually a keen yogi, although I certainly wasn’t picking up a ‘no harming’ vibe from him..

Good posture is so important but bad posture in the west is commonplace, leading to lower back issues later on in our lives.

In yoga, we are very aware of the position of the body whilst moving from posture to posture, the position of the feet, alignment of the knees, hips, engagement of the core muscles and stabilising the shoulders and the length of the spine.

Let’s take standing for example and observe the finer points of good standing:

Working up from the feet, toes spread, pressing into for corners of the feet to create lift in the ankles.

Engage the thigh muscles to lift up the kneecaps slightly, and slightly engage the abdominal muscles which will pull up the pubic bone, tilting the pelvis backwards making us stand a little taller.

The front of the rib cage is lifted by bringing the shoulder blades together and down (“chest out, shoulders back”).

To complete the picture lift the highest point of the back of the head up towards the ceiling without losing the grounding of the feet, this action elongates the spine.

The ideal alignment is reached when all the major joints of the body, ankles, knees, hips and shoulders align, one above the other creating a vertical line that also passes through the ears. This established a posture with the least resistance to the forces of gravity, making effortless standing a possibility.

Let’s face it, if we have to stand around for long periods, and we did, for hours at a time on a parade square, why not make it a effortless as possible?

But becoming aware of posture and the signs of good posture is one of the many great ‘take -aways’ from any yoga class.

Next time you find yourself standing around, check your posture and have a think about reducing the effort and aligning the body. You don’t need to go to a yoga class, or perhaps you do?

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