As part of my resolution to really start exploring the individual yoga poses, I also decided that I would start keeping a diary of my thoughts and experiences regarding my workouts. So here's my first entry.
Week 1 - Jan. 1, 2010:
I started work yesterday really exploring the pose downward facing dog. It is the first listed in the Yoga for Beginners Mastering the Basics, and it seems like you can hardly find a yoga sequence that does not mention this pose in some fashion or another. I figured it was as good a place as any to start.
The AM Yoga video from ExerciseTV utilizes down dog quite a bit, so I figured I could do a little work on this one and move on to the other poses rather quickly. I was wrong.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the ExerciseTV videos are great but they do move pretty quickly. So when I sat down to learn down dog "for real" I found that I didn't have quite the grip on it I thought.
Firstly, I found that the back of my calves are extremely tight. I discovered this when I realized that in the past I had been performing down dog on my toes, when according to the magazine the correct position for the feet is flat on the mat. The second indication that I was doing something wrong was that it hurt quite a bit between my shoulder blades.
I was having a very hard time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I asked my Beloved to help me, she'd watch and compare with the photos in the magazine. That didn't work as well as I'd hoped so she pulled out our little digital camera and took some video of me in the pose so I could see what I looked like for myself. She thought the process was quite funny.
The first thing I noticed on the video was that for some reason I was only using about half my mat. The photo in the magazine depicts a guy with the tips of his fingers near one edge of the mat and the heels of his feet at the other. And here I was scrunched up in the middle of mine. My first thought was "no way I can stretch out that far, he must be taller or have a shorter mat."
Wrong again. I tried again this time making sure I was using the whole mat. And wouldn't you know it? I could do it. And it felt much better this way. Imagine that. And here's where I discovered another problem, my $9 Wal-Mart mat is not nearly as sticky as I thought. Trying to hold downward dog became pretty difficult because my hands kept slipping forward. I suppose I will have to invest in a better mat sooner than I had thought.
Getting myself spread out was a big improvement, but I was still experiencing some pretty intense pain between my shoulders. So I took a short break, read through the article again then worked a little more in the puppy dog variation described by the author. In the puppy dog I paid very close attention to the alignment of my hands, arms and shoulders; I just knew that the problem lay in that area somewhere.
Then when I got back down to try the full downward facing dog, I noticed something about my hands. The text of the article says to make sure that the crease lines in your wrists form a straight line. I had figured that if my fingers were pointing straight ahead, those lines would be straight too. I was -- again -- wrong. To make the creases of my wrists form a straight line, I had to angle my fingers outwards just a tiny bit. And so far that seems to have done the trick.
All told I practiced down dog for about 40 minutes. By the time I had finished I felt I had made really good progress with this pose. And after finishing I was very surprised to find that my entire body felt very good. I think I had been working under the assumption that to get the "yoga-glow" feeling you had to do a complete set with several different poses. I was not expecting to find that working on just one pose left me feeling so good.
I am very encouraged by last night's effort and cannot wait to continue working on these exercises.