One Pose—Three Ways

"After years of vigorous athletic yoga classes, my body starting breaking down," said Yuuki Hirano, co-founder of Dou Yoga in Brooklyn and the newly opened Suryaside Yoga in Queens. Having reexamined his relationship to asana, he now emphasizes meditation and functional movement. "At the same time, my inner athlete and adventurer yearns for arm balances and inversion, so I now approach more complex demanding poses through this meditative, therapeutic lens using repetition and breath rather than jumping around and over exertion." Here, he shows downward dog in three interesting parts:

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

YH: I chose Downward Facing Dog. It is one of the more fundamental poses that are taught in pretty much every single class but the subtleties and nuances are often overlooked. It took me years of exploration to figure out how to safely and effectively practice the pose. I like it because it is so multi-dimensional and by learning the foundation of this pose it educates and prepares the body for so many other possibilities, arm balances, handstands, forward folds.

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

YH: The gleonhumeral joints (shoulders) are flexed (lifted over the head) and working towards externalrotation. The acetabulofemoral joint (hips) are in flexion (bent) and remain neutral (no rotation).These are the two key components of this pose. The primary area of focus and engagement isaround the shoulder. The external rotators of the shoulders include teres minor and Infraspinatusand by engaging this external rotation and repositioning the torso in between the arms rather sinking straight through it will help the integrity of the shoulder joint. The deltoids, the most superficial muscle around the shoulder also engages to help maintain the support of the joint. When doing down dog against the wall, there is less body weight pushing down on the shoulder joint, making it more accessible to a greater population. Additionally it is a fantastic way to educate students in how to engage their shoulder muscles to protect the joint. When you let the shoulders relax and let your torso fall through your arms, without engaging the muscle it can place the tendons and ligaments at risk. You might feel a stretch, but if you’re not mindful of your range of motion and you keep stretching into that end range it can lead to a repetitive stress injury.

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