What I learned from 150+ Days of Yoga: #2 Downward Facing Dog, and the Value of Doing Difficult Things
Over the past year and a bit, since the start of the pandemic, I have been practising (almost) daily yoga with Adriene, as I previously wrote about here. In this series of blog posts, I describe what I learned from this regular yoga practice. I write today about the value of doing hard things, and about how I faced a particular challenge with downward facing dog...
If you have practised yoga more than once, you will know that yoga classes often follow a quite predictable pattern, and the poses and sequences soon become quite familiar, if not always welcome.
Downward facing dog involves supporting your body on your hands and feet, whilst inelegantly sticking your pelvis in the air, aspiring to create an inverted 'V' shape with your body. It is an intense, dynamic pose, and I can still only hold it for short periods of time. Like mountain pose, it forms part of a 'Vinyasa' sequence, often referred to as a Sun Salutation, and when I used to go to studio yoga, I remember often being dismayed and frustrated by the numerous repetitions of sun salutations, and therefore downward facing dog, which would form what seemed like half of the class, partly because I have always struggled with this pose.
this is Molly after surgery - she is now doing fine*
It may have many benefits, but for me, downward facing dog often brings a sense of physical tension and difficulty, which is now, after daily practice, only slightly reducing, and which is honestly never very welcome. It makes me aware of my weak wrist joints, and other physical complaints. Yes, I am a difficult and ungrateful yoga customer. But, paradoxically, there is great value in doing difficult things, which I find myself frequently explaining to therapy clients.
We often struggle to do the hard stuff: to get out of our comfort zone, to learn new skills, to practise doing challenging things, basically to enable us to live our life according to our values. Sometimes, getting out of bed is the 'hard thing'. Or going to school, when we have an assignment due, or we had a fight with a friend, or just because it involves being with other people. Or managing to get on with life, in a meaningful way, while experiencing rumination, or constant negative thoughts. Or going for a walk, when you have no energy, or when (like today) it is constantly raining...
The most important difficult thing, perhaps, is that life involves struggle. The past year has been proof of this, in many ways. Whilst I struggle with downward facing dog, however, I do know I only need to do it for a short time. I am grateful that I am healthy, I have an amazing family, I have my dog, Molly, I can still do yoga, and other, difficult, things.
My next 'lesson' will be on the value of repetition. Stay tuned!
I would like to give a disclaimer here: I am not a yoga expert, I am writing from the perspective of a yoga participant - apologies to yoga teachers if I get things wrong.
*(socks to stop her scratching her stitches)