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For any yogi who has a favorite friend of the canine variety, you cannot help but smile when they practice upward or downward dog. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, or upward facing dog, is another in our series of backward bending poses which is also clearly an arm and wrist strengthening pose. Poses such as Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bridge Pose, are excellent preparatory poses for Upward Facing Dog pose.
Chaturanga Dandasana or the Four-Limbed Staff Pose is also called Plank Position. Chaturanga Dandasana is itself not described as a backbend but is often used to prepare for backbends because it strengthens the spinal muscles. Plank pose is the infamous Yoga Push Up which is one of the sequence of asanas in Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations.
Open the heart and stretch the belly with Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose. Back bends stimulate the Kidney Energy and invigorate the heart. Back bends can counteract the effects of depression. During the winter, many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, because of the decrease in light. Back bends, when practiced correctly, elevate our mood. This gentle back bend improves digestion and creates flexibility in the spine.
I've been intending for a couple of months to pick up our story line with Sri Yogendra, one of the unsung heroes of modern yoga. Born Mani Desai in 1897, he became in his late teens a disciple of Paramahamsa Madhavadasa, who at the time was reputed to be 118 years old. Paramahamsa, which means "great swan" (or "goose") is an honorific title given to highly enlightened beings (why is an enlightened person compared to a swan? That's a long story for another time). Mani's father threw a fit when he found out his son-a bright kid destined for great things in the world-had dropped out of college to become a yogi, which in those days meant a life of renunciation and celibacy.
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