Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, the "ten core poses" (Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches) and the Lotus are presented here. The other thirty-two poses I recommend can be found in my book.
Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
Dog Pose has two lines of energy radiating outward from your center. The center of this pose, as always, is your pelvis. Your hips will be in dog tilt, The first line of energy moves down the legs and into the feet, tile second line travels through your spine and arms into your hands on the floor. The idea in this pose is to form a triangular, pyramidal shape. You'll look like a dog stretching after a nap.
1 Start in Child's Pose with your arms extended straight. Stretch your hands as far away from you as possible. This establishes your hand and knee placement.
2 Keeping your hands where they are, come up onto your hands and knees into a flat-back Cat Pose. The arm line will not be vertical, but position your hands so they are shoulder-width apart. Have your knees and feet hip-width apart. Snuggle your hands into the floor, fingers spread, and align your hands so each middle finger is pointing straight ahead. Curl your toes under.
3 Establish a smooth-flowing breath with the ujjayi throat sound and wait for the inner cue to proceed.
4 As you wait for the inner cue, do not sag into your shoulders. Instead, lengthen the arms by pressing downward into your hands and lifting upward out of the shoulders. This simple movement is vital to this pose. When you are ready, exhale.
5 As you inhale, turn your hips into dog tilt. Your spine is now arched. Gently pull the navel backward toward your spine to stabilize your pelvis.
6 As you exhale, straighten your legs. Pause here a moment and take inventory.
7 Your first objective is to arch your spine and establish dog tilt with straight arms and straight legs. Do this by pushing downward into your hands and lift upward with your head; do not sag into the shoulders and do not retract the head backward into your neck. Lengthen your arms by lifting up. Then turn the sitting bones upward and spread the buttocks sideways away from one another, dog tilt, so the thighs roll inward slightly and the inner thighs move backward, away from you. Lift the kneecaps by tightening the quadriceps, check that your feet are straight, toes spread, and press the heels toward the floor, make your legs feel springy. Breathe. Be here several breaths.
Your second objective is to establish a straight line through your spine arms. Do this with the breath.
9 As you inhale, press downward into your hands and lift upward out of the shoulders. Lift your head and torso away from the floor as much as possible; this is "not sagging" or "lengthening the arms."
10 As you exhale, move your pelvis backward and upward, bringing your torso toward your legs. Feel how the groin, the crease formed by your torso and thighs, moves up, away from your wrists.
11 Do these two movements over and over, breath by breath, until you have achieved a straight line from your hands, through your shoulders, to your hips. With each inhalation, push into your hands to lengthen the arms, lifting upward out of the shoulders, and with each exhalation take the groin deeper, moving the pelvis away from you. Eventually your arms and spine will form a straight line.
12 The downward-forward push into your hands and the upward-backward movement through the pelvis is the same line of energy; it is a two-directional line. This two-way stretch opens the shoulders and chest, elongates the spine, and flattens the back.
13 Squeeze your elbows inward toward one another so the arms become fully straight, and press the palm and index finger of each hand firmly into the floor. Do not grip the floor. Press into it.
14 Press the legs fully straight, tighten the quadriceps, turning the thighs inward toward one another to help spread the buttocks, and press the feet firmly into the floor. This can be an intense stretch, so be sensitive; don't overdo it. Turning the buttocks upward and pressing the heels downward (another two-way stretch) will create a strong pull on the hamstring muscles.
15 Your third objective, once you have achieved a straight line from your hands to your coccyx, is to deepen the fold at your hips and bow your spine toward the floor. Do this by squeezing your head and chest downward and inward toward your legs. Do not attempt this, however, unless you have first established a straight line through your spine and arms. Let me repeat. Create a straight line from your hands through your shoulders to your hips before attempting to bow your spine.
16 As you inhale, press into your hands to lengthen the arms and achieve maximum length from your hands to coccyx. As you exhale, gently squeeze your head and chest toward your legs. From there, elongate again with the next inhalation, then squeeze your head and chest closer to the floor with the exhalation. Do this over and over: inhale elongate, exhale squeeze. Coordinate your stretching with your breathing. When you cannot increase the stretch any further, stay where you are and deepen the breath.
17 This is a backbend. So, like the dog tilt phase of Cat Pose, turn the sitting bones upward, move your thoracic (mid) spine deeper into your back, and slide the shoulder blades down your back to help open your chest toward the floor. Keep the navel pulled backward toward the spine and take the groin deep. Eventually, you will have your arms and legs straight, your head on the floor, with your spine forming a smooth graceful curve. Deepen the pose by moving your head closer toward your feet.
18 Stay in the pose for one minute or until you feel you have had enough, Then bend your knees, come out of the pose, and rest.
See my book for Quarter Dog and Half Dog - less strenuous poses. These variations eliminate the hamstring stretch and enable you to focus specifically on the arm and shoulder stretch.
Benefits: Dog Pose or Adho Mukha Shvanasana
Stretches entire backside of the body, especially the arms, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendon. Strengthens hands, arms, and upper body, open the chest, improves breathing. Overall body stretch, removes fatigue, and rejuvenates body. Lengthens spine, rejuvenates discs. Increases circulation to brain.
Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches, Lotus