downward-dog

Children are naturally flexible and in alignment with life. They laugh at funny things, they cry when they have discomfort or hunger, they don’t think about what The Critic might say—until they get to be about 4 or 5 and it begins to dawn on them that they’re not the center of the world.

My friend Richard let me use the photo above of his son at 1, doing a natural downward dog. (“Just don’t tell him you’re using it,” he said. His son is now 15.)

The little boy’s forward bend is so “natural” because he’s so flexible. Children who have just learned to balance on the soles of their feet love to play with gravity: they naturally stand on their heads with their feet flat on the ground. They push themselves all the way onto the crowns of their heads and then they roll over, and because their bodies are so loose, so unsprung—unlike mine (and maybe yours, too), which always seems tensed and ready to leap out of danger—they don’t get hurt.

They laugh at mistakes. Life is an experiment.

And truly, until I become like a child, I can’t experience that joy. Said, I think, one of those wise guys who really knew his shit.

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Downward-facing Dog is one of the core poses of any yoga practice because it puts the entire body to work. Since I began studying yoga while I was living in London with my baby boy in 1998 (I started by taking him to Baby Yoga classes, then realized this might be something that could benefit me), I’ve had periodic cravings to put my body into this pose. It’s hard to do right, and if it’s done right it’s a full-body workout. It asks your arms and shoulders to hold most of the weight of your torso and hips while you maintain stillness in an upside-down V. It’s also a great stretch for the hamstrings and glutes, and best of all, it activates the core. If it’s done right.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s done right: …

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