Let Me Be Perfectly Frank: The Enlightened Path of Upland Yoga
s the lazy days of summer grind to a weathered resolution, thoughts turn to more heady endeavors, like dove shoots, bow season, and of course, college football. If you thought dogs couldn’t possibly be football fans, you should stick to what you know and leave the thinking to the pros. After all, dogs are an integral part of the game—well, not so much the game that takes place on the field, but certainly the game that takes place on the sidelines and in the stands.
Just consider the number of mascots that are dogs, and set aside the notion that only bulldogs make it to the show. Sure, there are Georgia Bulldogs and Mississippi State Bulldogs in the South, Fresno State Bulldogs and Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West, and even Yale Bulldogs in the ivy-covered towers of the Northeast. Other breeds, though, are also leading their teams onto the field around this time of year—like the Southern Illinois Salukis, a breed known to be fast but difficult to train, or the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds, a breed worth betting on. Consider also the Boston University Terriers, represented appropriately by a breed known for punching above their weight and almost always above their head.
So there are a lot of dogs anxiously awaiting the change of seasons, and upland dogs are no different. Except that we have no teams, no mascots, no cheerleaders, and no heightened anticipation of Saturdays spent amid the chaos of grunting giants chasing a pumpkin while 100,000 screaming fans attempt to ingest a mixture of draft beer and contraband whiskey through faces painted in assorted variations of team colors. And that’s just the scholarship seats. The student section is a whole different slice of watermelon.
Upland dogs are, as a rule, avid sports fans, but we like to catch the game on the big screen in the den, or over the radio in the Jeep between hunts. The best part is watching the hunters responding to the play by play, or offering their own color commentary pulling stats from the previous three decades like they were the headlines in the morning paper. They wear themselves out armchair quarterbacking, and it’s tough to say whether they’re breathing heavy from hunting through the sagebrush or screaming at the coach through the radio. Either way, it seems like now might be an appropriate time to offer up a couple of training tips to those hunters who may have skipped spring training, as well as those who used the “two a days” workout regimen over the summer to measure their gin and tonic intake.
First and foremost, let’s be safe out there. Follow your dog’s lead as he offers flexibility insight from the Eastern traditions, a series of postures known as “upland yoga.” Some of these may seem familiar, but beware the nuance. Downward Facing Dog, for example, is not for the faint of heart. First, find a quail using only your nose. Then press your nose as closely as possible to the quail without flushing it, while at the same time lifting your hips as high as possible into the air. Now hold this pose for at least 10 breaths, or until the debilitating cramping forces you to the ground into a fetal position.
Next is Upward Facing Dog, a pose designed by a greedy chiropractor, wherein you lie flat on your stomach and use your hands to arch your back so that your face looks up, while your hips and legs remain planted on the ground. Grunting is expected, and swearing is encouraged. There’s something cathartic about screaming obscenities when you’re in such pain. Try this a couple of times and you’ll experience more patient appreciation of your dog’s flexibility.
Bear in mind that these are just the dog postures, the go-to stretches for the discerning bird dog and training partner in your life, as hunting season descends upon us like the golden opportunity that it is. It’s time to get in shape, to clear the mind of all the worldly distractions that often keep you from upland nirvana, to cultivate that inner peace that empowers you to forgo paying down your credit card debt because a new shotgun means much more than an improved credit score ever could. Upland yoga centers your chakras, aligns your moon and stars, and focuses your energy on what matters most: days afield with a good dog chasing birds.
It has been my pleasure to be your yogic guide on our journey today. With generous spirit, I thank you for your practice. Namaste.
For the record, that’s the traditional close to upland yoga. It is not to be read as, “Namaste here in the den and watch all the hunting on the Outdoor Channel.”