Question: I have incredibly stiff quads and hamstrings and cannot touch my toes. I hate downward dog. Can yoga really help me?
Adho Mukha Svanasana or dog pose is a challenging yoga posture. This pose requires a complete body awareness and all around strength and flexibility. It may be that you cannot do the pose fully for a long time, but you can learn to be in dog to the fullest of your ability. You do not have to wait for your hamstrings or shoulders to be ready to experience and reap the benefits or dog pose.
Look at dog pose as a direction, as your guru to teach you about your own body.
Be curious as to why this pose is difficult.
Experiment with trying different ways to do dog. For example, using a chair at a wall will take the pressure off your shoulders and lesson the pull of your hamstrings.
Ask a friend to pull your thighs back with a strap to draw the weight off your wrists and shoulders. You will learn that when you activate your legs, your shoulders suffer less.
It is important to remember that the dog pose is probably related to just about every other posture that you will do in a class sequence. So, you are always working on your dog pose. For example, in Triangle Pose you are using your legs and arms to lengthen your spine just like Adho Mukha Svanasana.
You do not need to be in the final pose to receive the benefits of dog or any other pose. Your awareness and curiosity about your own body is more important; the mastering of a pose is secondary.