This instruction is for teachers of yoga and advanced/intermediate yoginis. I am passing on the “art of teaching yoga.” Below are pointers from my Adho Mukha Svanasana practice. I thank my Iyengar teachers, Dassa Oppenheimer, Zoe Stewart and Karin Stephan for guiding my asana; and my students for teaching me refinement.
- Set up correctly. Begin in table top position. Check alignment of hands under shoulders, knees under hips, feet in line with knees. Move hands forward of plumb-line under shoulders by about two inches.
- Hand and fingers spread open. Widen palms as wide as they can comfortably stretch; spaces between fingers are stretched open as well. Pads under tips of finger make contact with the mat. All finger pointing straight ahead, towards top of your mat. Middle fingers parallel.
- Hoisting up. Curl your toes under. Move from the buttocks, as if a crane is lifting your tailbone/pelvis up towards the sky. On the uplift , the energy moves from hands to tailbone and from feet to tailbone.
- Soles of feet wide. Stretch across metatarsals. Imagine an arch from ball under big toe extending across foot to ball under little toe. Release and lower the skin on the neck of the big toe towards the mat. If you get your heels down, lift your toes to increase the stretch in the feet and back of legs.
- Inner ankles extend. Bring intelligence to inner ankle: the skin under the protuberance of inner ankle bone and sole of the foot. Stretch that skin down.
- Thighs pressing in. Find mid-thigh and imagine a compass–north, south, east and west. North is the front of the thigh. All points of the compass, on both the right and left thigh, move in towards the femur bone with equal intensity. Note which points require more attention and make adjustments. This takes practice.
- Elbows firm. Cracks of elbows face each other. Again, imagine a compass in your upper arm, about two-inches above your elbow joint. All points–north, south, east, west–push in towards the humerus. BTW: North faces the front of your mat.
- Front ribs move towards pelvis, stretching the font body. Note: Moving ribs forward will compress the mid-back and allow diaphragm/front ribs to protrude and thus cause a sway back.
- Upper back and back shoulder muscles push in towards upper back ribs.
- Skin in gutter of spine moves toward tailbone.
- Tip of tailbone lifts toward celling, like a tip of tongue sticking out of the mouth. This movement will allow lower back to extend and flatten.
- Neck relaxed. Ears in line with the inside upper arms
The face in Adho Mukha Svanasana does absolutely nothing. Relax the face. Relax the tongue. Let the eyes drop into the skull.