I recently had the opportunity to travel to Anchorage and lead the Yoga Tune Up® Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training. The 3-day training culminates in a mini Retrofit Your Downdog class experience that puts the weekend’s learning together in a practical way. For all of the students in Anchorage, this was their first experience with Integrated Anatomy and for many, the first time they had broken down and thoroughly examined yoga’s beloved pose, Downward Facing Dog.
Downdog is the epitome of yoga poses. Ask anyone about yoga and it’s probably the first and only pose they know about. Many yogis define themselves and their practice by their Downward Dog. But the shape we are trying to achieve during DownDog is not possible for every individual’s shoulders. Whether it’s limitations because of flexibility, injury or your bone shape limiting your range of motion – we are not all cut from the same cloth and can’t expect to do poses identically.
I don’t do Downdog regularly. It has been removed from my practice because maintaining a stable shoulder position is almost impossible with my range of motion. And it’s not even my shoulders that are the limiting factor –the limited pronation in my forearms makes it almost impossible to keep my shoulders stable. Watch this video below for the explanation.
On the rare occasion that I am in a class that is doing Downdog or I am teaching a Downdog focused workshop, I may do one or two of the pose, but this is ONLY after extensive warm up and preparation to prepare my shoulders.
It is not a resting pose when I am trying like heck to fire all the stabilizers around my shoulder joint. No one should be resting in Downdog. Resting in Downdog creates the perfect environment for shoulder dysfunction, ranging from impingement, bursitis, snaps, crackles or pops.
For some of the students this weekend, hearing that Downdog may not be legal for all shoulders – that their shoulder agony may stem from their repetitive Downdogs – was unsettling. It’s as if I had ripped the yoga mat out from underneath them. Their concern, which is totally natural for any yogis who have gone through any Yoga Tune Up® Trainings, is how they can ethically teach a pose that is not designed for everyone.
What I told them, and what I have to remind myself daily, is to love the ones you are with. Yes, you WILL lose students. When you start to teach from an anatomical understanding and not just parroting what your teachers told you, people who are not ready to face the truth of what they physically can and can’t do will not return to class. Unless you can continue to blindly force yourself into positions that you know may or may not be ideal for your tissues, your practice will change. It takes courage to evolve your teaching and your practice and not everyone is going to be down with that. But if you continue to enhance your understanding of biomechanics, you’ll end up with students who are hungry and curious to learn more.
It has been a long road but I finally feel that I am surrounded by people who are ready to put the work in to build stability, strength and stamina…and believe me, it’s not by doing 14720 Downward Dogs in a class.
Love the ones you are with at every given moment, because they are the ones who will continue to inspire your teaching and practice. I am so inspired and energized by the students in Anchorage – 21 people who are eager learners and don’t settle for blindly following what they’ve been told.
I have found my tribe.
- October 18: Mobility for Performance: Total Body Treatment (CrossFit SolCity, Hollywood, CA)
- November 7: Banish Back Pain (Yoga Vibe at the Village, Glendale Ca)
- November 8: Tackle Your Tension: Total Body Treatment (Unfold Yoga, Brea CA)
- February 5-7: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training (Black Dog Yoga, Sherman Oaks, CA)