Life Has You Down, Dog: Thank the Earth for the Support to Rise High

It’s important to consult your physician or physical therapist before beginning any new physical activity or exercises, and always listen to your body and respect the warnings you hear.

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” 

-Maya Angelou

There’s no escaping it: we all get knocked down from time to time in life. We fail, we fall, we hit the ground harder than we’d like. It’s a kind of an unnerving reality, but something we all have to deal with nonetheless. 

But we also get up, dust ourselves off, and begin anew time and time again. We’re resilient. We battle back. 

What is it inside of us that keeps that fire burning, that keeps us rising?

The only mistakes are the ones from which  we don’t learn. When we’re down, this is our opportunity to dig deeper, to release the fear of failure, to trust that there is a reason for everything, to learn, to grow. These so-called failures, these setbacks, are opportunities to cross thresholds, become better, remain confident and trusting, and (re)discover the profound connection of love and gratitude towards the Earth, our community, and ourselves. They’re all crying out for help: the Earth, in its viral tongue; our communities, in political discord and inequity; and within ourselves, in our inability to create or embody our heartfelt missions. 

In searching for answers, only more questions. How do we maintain our faith in systems that continually knock us down? Why do we continue our support of institutions that seem to be built for things, and not people? When are we going to respond to the issues staring back at us in the mirror?

During the times in my life when my back has been against the wall, in those moments when I didn’t know which way to turn, the greatest solace I’ve found in my own life has been in practice. The practice is the performance.

This dance of life has always called me back to the ground to bow to that which provides and sustains our lives.

Child’s pose can be the perfect posture to cultivate the comfort and support so many of us yearn for at this time. Physically, this pose can aid in digestion and lengthen the spine and back hips, while stretching shoulders, knees, and ankles. As with any joint impairments, this pose could be difficult, possibly painful, and could cause more harm than good. So, listen to the messages your body sends you, especially in your ankles, knees, and back. Be compassionate to your needs with the use of bolsters or blankets to support and provide comfort.


Child’s Pose: Starting on hands and knees, shift the hips back towards the heels, lowering the heart and head to the earth. Arms can be extended out front but avoid any pinching or sharp pain in any of your joints. Please, be generous with props in order to support yourself in a way that allows you to experience release—into this pose to find solace, and within to find the peace that comes with introspection. Take 5-7 rounds of breath, connect to intention, and find gratitude and comfort for the safety of the earth below you.  Inhale, lift back of body towards the heavens. Exhale, let go of all fears, open heart, melt, and release into the earth. 


Downward Facing Dog: From child’s pose, shift body forward to tabletop, tuck toes, lift knees and draw tailbone back and up towards sky, draw navel in towards spine. Slight bend in the knees to take hamstrings out of the fight to rise up, release low back and create space in the spine. Hands are firmly rooted to mat; upper arms are spiraling open as elbow creases toward front of mat. Shoulder blades slide down spine away from ears. Neck is relaxed, let head release between arms.


Downward Facing Dog (Chair Version):  Instead of hands on the earth one can use a chair, desk, or countertop to help release tension from spine and find the same benefits of this pose. Grip onto the seat of a chair pressing arms down to active stabilizing muscles throughout shoulders. Feet slowly walk back, lower heart towards the earth, keep knees bent in order to find optimal length in the spine.

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Downward Facing Dog (Family Version): Down dog is always a popular one for the littles. Let your little pup be playful, breathwork can be incorporated with panting, barking, just being heard. Work to create a down dog tunnel, lots of fun when doing yoga with a group or the entire family. Take turns letting each participant crawl underneath the down dog tunnel. Those on the ground can slither and hiss like a snake. Making their way through the tunnel is great core and functional strengthening activity, plus a ton of fun.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” -Confucius

Dr. Meghan Nelson

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