If anyone were to ask you about the one thing that plagues most of us these days, I’m sure your reply will definitely include one of the following – back pain, fatigue and stiffness in the joints. The root cause of all these problems being our sedentary lifestyle, most often brought about by long hours of sitting in the office.
Back pain, fatigue and joints stiffness are not things that we would like to carry along with us. In fact, we all are much better off without these chronic aches and pains. So, what’s the way out? What is it that we can do to rid ourselves of these common, yet persistent problems from our lives?
Yoga Relieves Aches and Pains
Research has shown time and again that yoga is excellent for treating joint pains and other uncomfortable conditions like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome. People who practice yoga regularly see significant improvement in their muscle strength and flexibility. And the best part is, yoga works on bringing back the mind-body balance, leaving you feeling better and stronger with each day’s practice.
Now, there are hundreds of yogasanas and each one of them have their own health benefits. If one were to ask you this critical question, which is the one yoga pose that you must do everyday – what would your answer be?
The One Yoga Pose That You Must Do Everyday
Yes, you guessed it right. Downward Dog it is! One of the most basic, omnipresent and common posez in yoga, the downward dog has many benefits for its regular practitioner. This is one pose that you will learn as a beginner and return back to again and again as you reach more advanced levels. Called the adho mukha svanasana in Sanskrit, the asana derives its name from the fact that it resembles a dog that is bending forward and is one of the most widely recognized poses in the west! It’s quite a dynamic stretch and has a lot of muscle groups involved, primarily your shoulders, spine, hamstrings and calves. This pose is also an essential element of the Sun Salutation.
So, what makes this pose so popular? What is it about the pose that has made so many yogis fall absolutely in love with it? Let’s take a look at the Top 5 benefits of doing the downward dog or the anchoring posture (the pose of pause)
# It rejuvenates you and brings back lost energy – B.K.S Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga recommends this pose when one is tired and needs to boost up the energy levels. Going by the words of B.K.S Iyengar, the great yoga guru, spending just a minute in this pose can bring back lost energy for runners after a hard race.
# Elongates the cervical spine and neck – Most of us spend most of our time in a rounded position -whether it is at work, driving, eating food or watching TV. Our backs are rarely straight and its the rounded position that our backs get most accustomed to. This is where the downward dog comes in to reverse this action and help in taking away the fatigue, weakness and tension from our spine and back muscles. This pose will help you in lengthening your spine, to open up the spaces between the vertebra, loosening up the painful knots and releasing the tightness in your back, shoulders and neck.
# Strengthens the arms, wrists, shoulders, hamstrings, calves and feet – As you settle into the downward dog, you will notice the stretch in your muscles as they get pulled and moved out of their comfort zones. Your muscles are getting challenged and strengthened in the process. Many of us suffer from lower back pain or sciatic pain resulting from tension in the hamstrings or the back of our legs. The downward dog will work at loosening up these tight muscles and relive the aches and pains that we face in these areas. Also, this pose helps in increasing the bone density and is especially good for women who face a higher risk of osteoporosis.
# Promotes Blood Circulation – The head drops below the heart in the downward dog pose and this mild inversion aids in increased blood flow to the brain, stimulating the circulatory system in the process. This promotes blood flow throughout the body, aiding in regulating our blood pressure and also remove accumulated toxins from our system. Being less strenuous than the other inversions, one still derives the benefits of a complete inversion like a headstand. So, one gets to enjoys a calmer mind, reduced stress and anxiety levels, relief from headaches, insomnia and an improvement in memory and concentration levels.
# Improves Digestion – As we work into the downward dog, we are lengthening up the entire spine and the back of our legs, loosening up the tightness in these areas so that these muscles can maintain a healthy and natural position, in line with the gravity. This correct alignment of the body decreases stress levels and helps in maintaining a healthy digestion. The inverted V that gets formed during this asana massages the digestive organs and the slight compression of the navel into the spine aids in the functioning of the liver, spleen and the kidneys.
So, there you go! There is a lot going on for the ubiquitous yoga pose and now you will fully appreciate the benefits your body is deriving while holding this pose in your next yoga class. This pose is definitely a challenging one, with so many muscles groups involved but as you evolve with your yoga practice, you will be able to hold this pose for longer periods of time. I leave you with a quote from Shiva Rea, the global yoga teacher:
If you struggle with Down Dog, be compassionate and patient with yourself; you are not the first person with tight hamstrings or weak arms. On the other hand, be diligent. Ultimately, Down Dog will start to feel so good that you will really empathize with the full-body joy that dogs display while doing the pose.