My dogs are faster than I am. They can jump higher. They’re more flexible, have better posture and are (much) less picky eaters. They spend less money on clothes, throw fantastic shapes when they sleep, are excellent listeners, and don’t whine except when there’s a fox in the garden. They’re almost relentlessly cheerful, except when I pack a suitcase or put on my riding boots. Having said that, they’re not at all good at writing books, but surely that’s the fault of people who design laptops without considering that dogs don’t have laps.
For all these qualities, I admire them greatly. But as I contemplate a return to yoga after three months off, I can’t help feeling especially resentful at how good my dogs are at downward facing dog.
Downward facing dog makes me want to give up yoga on a regular basis. You’re supposed to breathe deeply while holding the posture, creating a flow of energy through the body, but there’s something seriously wrong with my downward facing dog. I usually can’t breathe at all, and my arms never seem to achieve optimum lightness, or any lightness at all, unless you count severe pain followed by numbness. As unjudgmental as my yoga teacher is, I know that even he thinks I resemble a badly constructed coffee table.
No matter how much I practice, I don’t think I’ll ever be any good at that elusive and most basic of yoga positions. But every morning, when the dogs stagger out of bed, they both drop into an effortless, elegant stretch which reminds me where the name of the movement came from. It’s chastening. And makes me reconsider the whole concept of top dog.