Every morning when I walk down the stairs after my nights sleep, my dog comes and greets me at the bottom of the stairs.
And while I’m on my way down, I see her perform a downward facing dog and an upward facing dog, stretching her muscle tissues as well as the energy pathways of her body.
For those of you not familiar with the yoga practice of upward and downward facing dog, simply picture a dog, or a lion, or a cheetah or a cat for that matter in your mind’s eye, and watch what they do after getting up.
They stretch. My dog places her front legs as far forward as she can reach, brings her head towards the earth, stretches her front legs and spine while at the same time moving her butt backward and upward, making her look a bit like a hairy ski-slope.
Then she switches, moves her body forward and upward, stretches her hind legs, raises her head all the way up exposing her throat, while at the same time bending her spine backward.
Animals are smart in that sense; or maybe the word is lucky, as mother nature has blessed them with the intuitive inner knowing that they need to do this in order to get going.
Now deep down inside, us human beings know we should be doing our stretches in the morning as well. I bet you that in our hunter and gatherer days, it was one of the first things we did after waking up, because intuitively we knew it was what we needed in order to do our thing during the day.
These days, the only stretching many of us do is that of one arm to hit the alarm.
Straight after that our programmed brains tell us we need to be at work on time or the kids need to get up to go to school, or we need to make breakfast, or we still need to put the garbage out, all routine demands from the outside world, that make us forget to tend to ourselves first.
The six directions of the body
Now let me tell you what you are missing out on.
By doing a downward facing dog you would stretch the spine, specifically the lower back,i.e. the root of the spine, the seat of your energy supply, and open up the highway of your energy pathways which through smaller turns and twists and trails reaches into all other parts of your body.
By doing an upward facing dog and bending backwards, you would open a direct connection to the heart, enhancing your enjoyment of life while at the same time opening the throat and the thyroid so those hormones that make us do our thing on a daily basis can start flowing.
And the beauty of it is you don’t even have to do an upward or downward facing dog; it’s okay to resort to the practice of simple stretches which appear by themselves simply by listening to the body.
The body naturally knows how to move in order to get the energies flowing. It naturally knows the 6 directions of yoga, or maybe I should say, yoga is based on what the body has naturally known throughout evolution; and at some point, some 5000 years ago, someone started to write these exercises down and gave them names.
A simple version of the six directions goes like this:
– Make sure your knees are slightly bent and then bend the upper body forward from the hips, gently and slowly, using your arms and hands as weights to pull you down. Only go as far as feels comfortable and feel the stretch of your lower back. (o and by the way, simply continue breathing)
– Bend sideways, again making sure your knees are unlocked, i.e. slightly bent, only using your torso leaving the shoulders in line with the torso, using the arm of the side you are bending towards as a weight to pull you down to the side, only going as far as feel comfortable.
– Bend side ways to the other side, in the same manner.
– Bend backward, lifting the head to look up at the skies while placing your hands behind your lower back for support and feel the stretch of the chest, while knowing you’re doing your heart and thyroid a big favor.
– Rotate the spine to one side, leaving the hips aligned with the feet, look over your shoulder, knees still slightly bend and then switch and
– Rotate the spine to the other side, leaving the hips aligned with the feet, look over your shoulder, only rotating the spine.
You can make this fun and relaxed by letting your arms swing from side to side in sync with the rotations.
To round this off close your eyes, picture yourself in your mind’s eye, see yourself as you are right now, bring your hands in front of your chest, the thumbs touching the area of your heart, put a smile on your face and greet yourself and the day ahead of you.
And remember” The Trick is to EnjoY it.