Discipline & Surrender: The Art of Down Dog
I’m a yoga teacher who’s been teaching for over 20 years and doing down dog every day. So technically I can do the pose, but because of a pinched nerve in my elbow I’ve developed a problem akin to tennis elbow and it hurts like hell.
For years I’ve heard one student after another complain about down dog. They tell me it’s too hard, it’s boring and it sometimes hurts the hands and the feet. I would remind them about limitation, relaxing and letting go. “Breathe,” I would say.
I love down dog. It reminds me to surrender every part of my body to the pose. It requires discipline to first get into the pose and then a sense of surrender to maintain it. I remind my students that such is down dog, such is life. It takes discipline to stick to your goals and surrender to maintain them.
What I love about down dog is that it’s a one-for-all pose, meaning that it requires the integration of the whole body. It stretches the muscles of the back of the legs, shoulders, the belly and the back. It strengthens the arms, relieves neck tension and offers some of the benefits of inverted poses, such as cleaning the internal organs and relieving tension. It can be done for a warm up or a cool down.
Patanjali, who organized the knowledge of yoga into The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, understood down dog. His book compiles 196 sutras that are essentially a road map for life. The second sutra, if fully understood, is enough to understand yoga. The rest of the sutras only serve to explain. Basically the second sutra is about the modification of the mind or the balance between the two qualities of abhyasa and variragya or “discipline” and “surrender.” This is down dog.
These two qualities form the foundation of yoga. It’s the balancing and the blending of the two opposing forces of discipline (practice) and surrender (letting go) that create harmony. It’s precisely the physical discipline of moving into down dog and the letting go so as to maintain it: that is why I love down dog, and why I was so disappointed when my body would no longer allow me to embrace the pose.
Not to be one to give up, I saw my doctor who sent me to a physical therapist. For six weeks I worked to relieve the pain in my elbow so that I could return to the mat. It also took discipline to faithfully make time to see the physical therapist three times a week. It took a sense of surrender to let go and remain unattached to the outcome of my therapy. My focus was to establish that sense of balance between abhyasa and variragya.
This process of therapy was a discovery that called upon me to transcend my ego. I’ve always prided myself on being able to easily slip in and out of down dog. My body has always been strong, flexible and resilient. Now my body was tired and worn, and I had to let go of my self-imposed boundaries and admit that I too had my limitations. I’m the yoga teacher and I cannot do a down dog?! But like all things in life, this too shall pass. Everything changes. With time and a little rest my elbow improved, and before I knew it, I was back on the mat in down dog with my students.
But something changed. I no longer take for granted that my body will always respond with the discipline I impose. Sometimes we need to pull back and surrender to the flow of life, even if that flow is one that is not so pleasant. As I like to remind my students, everything has an element of good. We just need to surrender to it and quietly learn to accept. In that, we will discover a sense of discipline and the ability to surrender; and if truly understood, this is enough to understand yoga. The resting of my elbow, like the remaining sutras, simply served to instill in me the importance of balance and the modification of the mind.
5 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Sex Life
If you are wondering what the connection is between yoga and sex you are not alone. Many people automatically think that there can’t be a connection there. But, it is important to know that yoga can help you have better sex. In fact, many people including fitness instructors, and medical professionals recommend yoga for improved intimacy.
What is important to remember is that being fit in general is likely to give you more self-confidence. When your self-confidence levels are high, your satisfaction in the bedroom will automatically increase. It will still actually increase even if the sex doesn’t change at all! How amazing is that? Practicing yoga and exercising in general can also provide a better awareness of your body. This is important to having a good sex life. You may notice things about your body when you practice yoga, or just stretch. You can begin to better understand your body, its flexibility, and your limits. This alone can help to improve your sex life.
The art of yoga relies on body awareness, body movement, and breathing. Many experts say that these three components are important to having healthy intimacy levels. In fact, did you know that by practicing yoga, your sex life will improve even if it wasn’t your goal or the main purpose for you taking up yoga?
As previously stated, when you have better body awareness, you are more likely to enjoy sex. Body awareness is one of the many foundations that yoga is built on. Being aware of your body can help to give you a better image of yourself, which can, in turn, increase your sex drive and ignite passion.
As for the breathing in yoga, it is so much more than just taking a breath while sitting on the couch at home. The breathing that yoga calls for actually helps to make your spine and your pelvis stronger. What does this mean for intimacy? It can result in better action and movement. You may find yourself being able to have sex longer. Your ability to try new sex positions also improves.
If your significant other isn’t currently practicing yoga, encourage them to try it! Practicing yoga together can also be quite rewarding.
Try these five poses to add a little zing to your sex life:
Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana): Improves libido by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region.
Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana): Reverses blood flow, decreases anxiety and stress, relaxes mind and body.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana): Helps to lessen PMS and menopause symptoms and promotes healthy functioning of the reproductive organs.
Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana): As you move through cat/cow, the kegel muscles strengthen as they work to control the tailbone. Strong, healthy kegel muscles produce better, more controlled orgasms.
Cobra (Bhujangasana): A, It’s a heart opener. The pose opens the heart chakra, opening it to the possibilities of love. B, It’s an energizing pose, which is good for those who are often too tired for sex.