Stop, Drop, and Down Dog
By: Savina Brown
Contrary to popular belief, yoga isn’t just about flexibility and contorting your body in to crazy shapes. It’s also about rebuilding, strengthening, and sculpting muscles as well. Think you get enough of that in Welded? Think again. Although Welded is a great way to develop full-body strength, it is also easy to sustain imbalances in the body. Larger muscle groups begin to take over smaller muscle groups and stabilizers due to lack of mobility or lack of use. Ever heard the saying, “use it or lose it?” That’s exactly what’s happening here. Once those big muscle groups take over, they no longer recruit smaller muscle groups and stabilizing muscles to help them out. Hence, you’re losing the strength and ability of these muscles. No fear yoga is here! Many of the postures in yoga encourage proper alignment, balance, and stabilization. Meaning that yoga uses and reinforces muscles otherwise forgotten by Welded and weightlifting. The cherry on top is that it cultivates a stable environment for you to increase strength AND become more flexible.
How does this link back into Welded movements you ask? Let’s talk about an overhead squat position. Do you have enough mobility in the shoulders to stably have the bar overhead in a good balanced position? Odds are that you have tight shoulders and have become internally rotated, making it even more difficult to get in that nice overhead position. Are your hips, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors strong and flexible enough to support you in this position? You need incredible flexibility in these areas of the body to be able to maintain this position.
Cue downward facing dog. This posture OPENS hips and shoulders, STRETCHES hamstrings, calves, arches, hands, and STRENGTHENS arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, and abdominals. In addition to elongating and releasing tension from the spine, improving digestion, relieving back pain, stress, headache, insomnia, and fatigue. Sounds to me like sneaky little trick to help get you into that overhead squat position you want to be in.
How do you apply this? Start practicing your down dogs a little everyday, whether you are in yoga class or it’s your new morning go-to stretch. Try doing it for a certain amount of breaths or time, taking breaks in child’s pose as often as needed, and eventually build up to more time or more breaths.
Proper technique: Start out in a tabletop position (all fours), wrist aligned underneath the shoulders, knees under hips. Spread the fingers wide, middle finger facing forward or SLIGHTLY out if the shoulders are tight. Distribute the majority of the weight to the space between the index finger and thumb, getting the weight off the outer wrist. Tuck the toes and slowly lift the hips up. The focus is not on getting the legs straight, but getting the spine in a beautiful, straight line, sitting bones reaching up. As you beginning to increase your hamstring flexibility you may begin to straighten the legs. Engage this position by externally rotating the shoulder by spinning the armpits and elbows in towards one another.