This photo has been doing the rounds for years, and it irks me. It says "Want to start YOGA? Start by bending over and picking up your dog poo known as the 'downward dog position'. THEN PUT IT IN THE BIN."
I like to think that I know a thing or two about the messaging around responsible dog ownership, as my son is an award-winning graphic designer whose work can be seen around my local area (OK he won a 'design a dog poo' poster competition when he was 7).
I'm still so proud of the poster design that I asked my wonderful illustrators Ben and Steph Grandis to incorporate it into one of the illustrations in my book Goldfinches, Daffodils and Sunshine (have a look in my shop), but that's by the by.
Dog poo is a problem around where I live.
However, I'm a pedant and I can tell you once and for all that downward facing dog is not the pose you want to be using to pick up dog poo. It is very good preparation for bending down to pick up dog poo, as it helps release tension in your hamstrings thus enabling you to fold forward with ease, but it really is not the ideal yoga pose for carrying out this task.
Here is why! In downward facing dog (ardho mukha svanasana) your hands are on the floor! Your weight is
taken forwards , meaning you have no hands free to scoop the offending item into a bag and pick it up. The only option is to scoop down to the floor and use your jaws. This is not advisable, and neither is placing your hands on a poo-strewn pavement.
So what poses could you use instead, which would not only lower your hands to the floor but also keep those useful opposable thumbs at the ready?
Well, a lovely balance is half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana). Not only do you get a wonderful opening feeling and increase your balance and stability, but you also keep one hand free to effortlessly scoop the poop. Start off in Warrior 2, and start to reach forwards before lowering one hand to the floor and raising the other to the sky. Your back leg acts as a helpful counter weight while you perform the deed.
Of course, there's always the straightforward Uttanasana, the standing forward fold. You can bend your knees slightly if your hamstrings are tight.
Naturally, if your creaking back and tight muscles are preventing you from responsibly clearing up after your dog, try a yoga class. You will feel more confident in your balance, you'll be able to move more easily, and you will upset fewer people when exercising your beloved furball.
But please do not use downward facing dog as a means to pick up your dog poo.
Poo Poster designed by Lucas Oliver for the Box Moor Trust and Boho Boxmoor poo poster competition
Snowflake illustration by Ben and Steph Grandis
Yogi illustrations by Maria Oliver from Once Upon a Time, You... a Yoga Adventure where you choose what happens! available in the shop.