Dog of Devotion

Posted on October 17, 2011


tl;dr – a billion down dogs will bring clarity…or death.

I am in Downward Facing Dog again and I want to sob.

Adho Mukha Savasana.  I have been in dog more during this certification class that all of my practice over the past 13 years put together and it has been … a wonderfully hideous thing to do. Turns out in my past 13 years of practice no one ever mentioned to me that I have a sway-back in dog.


You heard me. A sway-back.My thin ectomorph body doesn’t enjoy pushing up into the straight spine, wrung arm position called for by my teacher.

My teacher is pushing 60, wears little red shorts and used to be a ballet dancer. He is stern, unyielding in his demand for attention and action and tells great stories.

I hate him in this moment…and love him because he tells me that I am totally misaligned in dog.  He tells me that to fully experience the pose I need to rotate my shoulders more fully elevate my hips and squeeze my quads hard enough to make me feel like my femur bone is going to snap ala some kind of yoga superhero in the midst of a hulk like transformation ( contemplate that for a moment – incredible hulk as a yogi).

He calls out for us to come down and I drop into child’s pose – panting.

It stings as a long time practitioner to hear that I have a shitty dog pose, but given that everyone in the class is suffering through the same lesson it makes me think that this is a universal issue. The professor teaches in the Iyengar style. For those of you who don’t know Iyengar…well…it is a very anatomically precise form of asana practice. I spent my entire yoga career avoiding Iyengar because I felt it was too confining for my typical, flowery and graceful form of yoga…and yet here I am, arms shaking, sweating (or maybe crying I can’t tell anymore) through round after round of down dog. I think the universe is teaching me a lesson, and while it feels ….ummm… dastardly painful, it is one I need to learn and is simply this:  I have much to learn during my time on this earth and that I want to do it, even if it calls for herculean effort to push myself up into another dog and then another.

In almost all things in life, I have been a seeker with an ego block. I want to learn things but after I assimilate the scaffolding of what that thing is…I move on to another topic. I leave the information in my head space and fail to move it down into a heart or soul space. It has left me with a lot of random and incongruent information floating around in my head…I’m great at dinner parties for entertainment but haven’t really learned anything.

Not weird. As a society, Americans have been informed that the head is for learning and the heart is for feeling. Any interaction between the two isn’t necessary for survival.

But I don’t want to survive. I want to live.

So what is necessary for living?

It is this idea: that Logos wins out over Eros that has allowed me to keep the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga at bay for over a decade…even though my undergrad (a double major in history and comparative religious studies) which was totally my soul/self-seeking phase of life I didn’t connect yoga and spirituality because I felt that it would make the practice too difficult… … … …that’s just baby town frolic’s.

Reflecting on it now, a thousand proper down dogs into my certification program I realize that yoga IS my spirituality and that really I have been craving a deeper connection…I was just too far removed from my heart space to get it. Did learning proper dog form help? Yes it did. Well, really it was learning dog and why it is considered a resting pose and what it, along with the rest of asana practice does to prepare the body for my meditation practice. Knowing is a large boon, large enough to push my want to teach to the side for a moment and remind me that living is doing what I am passionate about and what I am passionate about is yoga… … not just asana….yoga. Encapsulated in this is passion is the spiritual and it is all heart based…fuck the head. Seriously. I’ve gone into some kind of weird bhakti heart work and it is awe inspiring. I’ll talk about kirtan and my responses to it sometime soon, when I figure out how to put it into terms that don’t sound like a dirty hippy talking about drum circles and mescaline.

Time to go spend some time with my sway-back.

Love and light,

-Ahimsamaven –

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”