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One Pose—Three Ways

Tamar Samir, who has taught vinyasa for nine years, is known for a graceful flow that infuses her deep appreciation of Iyengar. "The Iyengar Yoga method’s precision, professionalism, and accessibility to all levels/bodies is very inspiring," she said. Here Samir explains yoga's most iconic pose:

YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?

Tamar Samir: Adho mukha śvānāsana, downward facing dog. I chose it because it is a classic asana that has benefits for the whole body and is relatively accessible to all levels. Downward facing dog is a wonderful neutralizer for the spine after deep backbends or deep forward bends. In her book Yoga in Action: Preliminary Course, Geeta Iyengar states that when the head is down and the spine is above the heart, the shape creates a supported resting position for the heart. Also, when the head is down, there can be a calming effect on the mind.

YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.

TS: In this variation of downward facing dog, the palms are on the floor, with the hands slightly turned out, so that the thumb and index finger touch the wall. This hand position awakens alertness in the hands and helps you press into the root of the thumb and index finger. The hand position predisposes the upper arms to external rotation, and helps in straightening the arms. By pressing down into the palms, you can move the pelvis up and away from the hands. By pressing into the wall with the fingertips, you can move the pelvis

away from the wall. In this variation, you can feel Downward Dog as a dynamic triangle, with energy moving up to the triangle’s apex from both sides.

YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?

TS: In this variation, which is affectionately called “wall dog,” you can learn to fully straighten the arms and legs more completely, and extend the sides of the trunk. It’s generally less difficult than the classic asana. Due to the support of the wall and the floor, there is less effort against gravity. As you press the hands and feet into the wall and into the floor respectively, you reach the pelvis away from the hands.

YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this one add to the understanding of the pose [and mind].

TS: In this variation, the upper body and the arms combined with the front leg form a triangular shape in relationship to the wall, similar to the classic downward facing dog.

Because you are standing upright and using the wall, you focus more deeply on extending the arms up the wall and as a result extending the trunk. Looking up can help to bring concavity into the space between the shoulder blades and avoid rounding the upper back. The toes up the wall help to activate and straighten the standing leg more completely.

To study with Tamar Samir, visit Five Pillars Yoga, YogaWorks Soho and West Side, and Yoga Agora. Stay tuned for several retreats with Samir and her wife, Nora Heilmann. The next

outing is a Summer Solstice Retreat (June 16-19) to Bethel Farm in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. "Expect to dive deeply into the natural beauty and peaceful vibration of the surroundings," Samir said. "We’ll practice seated and walking meditation, pranayama, dynamic asana classes, restorative yoga with live music." Offerings include philosophy, kirtan, a bonfire, organic vegan food picked from the farm, and lots of good mood! More info:

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