Four Things I've Learned From Downward Facing Dog

Everyone has a yoga pose that they resist. For me, it has been downward facing dog. Its a bit of a conundrum too, since it is a core pose. You need it for the Sun Salutation, it is a start into inversions, it can be a heart chakra opener. Its kind of a big deal!

I've made up excuses to avoid practicing it - I have bad balance, it gives me a headache and of course the surgery on my broken wrist has made the pose difficult. At times, the metal plate and screws in my wrist make the pose treacherous.

But recently, I've experienced a huge shift. Not only can I do the pose, I like the pose. I've learned from the pose. And here is what it has taught me.

1. The Whole of Reality
This pose is like the Hanged Man in tarot. It gives you a completely different perspective. And if you look at the whole of reality instead of the one or two places your energy has glommed on to, things shift. This pose takes you into a movement of energy. In the past, I would focus on where it hurt to do this position. Now, I focus on the whole experience.

2. Acceptance
A man and woman were intensely discussing the pain they had in 15 years of relationship. She took responsibility for judging him. In anger, he said "What do you want me to say to that?!?" Her loving response was "Whatever you want to say." Acceptance. No judgement or convincing him of what he should see or feel.

I've judged myself when I do this pose. I've judged myself for my lack of balance, flexibility and strength. But like the woman, I now say to this pose "I'm listening. Tell me whatever you want to say."

3. Identification
We are told over and over to be present. Be present with the breath. Stay present in this experience. What in heaven's name does that mean? I'm struggling to hold this posture - trust me, I'm about as present as it gets!

Being present isn't the same as identifying with the experience. I get caught up in trying to find the yoga I want to identify with this thing that seems to take over the room when we aim for the perfect pose.

Stop. Being present has nothing to do with anyone else. It has nothing to do with anything other than creating awareness of what arises for me in the pose. Today. Right now. Not last time. Now.

4. Moving energy is what it's all about
Beautiful men and women pervade the classes. He can balance on his arms. She can effortlessly walk into an inversion. They look like art.

When I do downward facing dog, its not effortless. Its not art. My arms shake. I get dizzy. Bad stuff happens emotionally. I'm uncomfortable. And that's the yoga.

This pose challenges where I hold stuff. It makes me see myself. I see a belly. My neck is constricted. That right hip isn't lining up. is where I need release. Here is my hiding place.

And then I move the energy. Its not about looking graceful. Its not about anyone else in the room - they have their own stuff. It's about releasing one more part of my story. One more false belief. One more path leading me closer to consciousness.

Downward facing dog, I love you. You are the patient lover, who has waited for me to see your wonder. You have offered me your fullness over and over while I rejected you. Now I gratefully sink into your arms. Thank you for not giving up on me.

Gail Matheson PhD is a student of non dualistic Tantric philosophy. She is experiencing shifts in consciousness and reality every day and likes sharing that. Her blog is and her twitter feed is @PracPriestess

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Comment by Kathy Custren on July 20, 2014 at 5:31pm

Love your submission, Gail! As soon as possible, please include your bio paragraph with a contact link at the end, so we can forward it on to the publishers? Thanks!!

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