How to Do Downward Dog

How to Do Downward Dog

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Have you ever seen a dog press his paws on the floor in front of him and bow his chest down as a signal that he wants to play? You, too, can awaken your inner pup with downward-facing dog pose.

Downward facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit is a foundational pose in yoga, you do this pose in just about every yoga class.

1. Set up

  • Place your hands and knees on the mat in table-top.
  • Spread your fingers wide.
  • Put more weight on your forefinger and thumb to protect your wrists. (If you do feel any pain in your wrists, exit the posture, warm up more, and try again!).
  • Curl your toes under and grip your mat with your toe pads.

2. Getting into the pose

  • Take a deep breath, and on your exhale, pike your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Keep your palms shoulder-width distance apart. Align your heels hip-width distance apart.
  • Avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears by rotating your shoulders outward.
  • Straighten your arms, but avoid locking your elbow. Instead. soften your elbows and rotate the eyes of your elbows toward your ears to engage your biceps.
  • Look at your toes.

3. Alignment

  • Press your palms into the mat. Create a straight line from your wrists, to your shoulders, to your hips.
  • Rotate the biceps forward and broaden the shoulder blades.
  • Engage your core muscles toward the spine and slightly tuck the tailbone to elongate the lower back.
  • Press your heels toward the mat (keep a soft bend in your knees to prevent locking out your joints).
  • Hold the pose for one minute while breathing deeply in and out through the nose.

Keep in mind that every body is different. Feel free to make any adjustments so that the pose is more comfortable for you.

 

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog

Down dog pose has many benefits for the body; it creates length in the spine and lower body while simultaneously increasing strength in the arms, shoulders, and back.

Also, since the head falls below the heart in this pose, it is considered an inversion. Compared to more complicated inversions like handstand or headstand, downward dog is a gentler way to incorporate an inversion into your yoga practice, especially if you are a beginner.

 

Down Dog Tips and Modifications

For a deeper stretch –

Focus on lengthening the spine by lifting the hips, while simultaneously reaching the heels toward the floor.

If your leg muscles are tight-

If you have trouble straightening your legs (which most people do), you can keep a slight bend in your knees. With the breath, bend one knee and then the other to gently and slowly feel the stretch in your hamstrings and calves. After some practice with this pose, you can slowly start to straighten both legs, releasing the heels toward the mat while simultaneously lifting the hips toward the ceiling.

To deepen the pose-

Press firmly into the mat to lift the hips higher and engage your quadriceps as you actively press your thigh bone behind you.

About

Sharon was pre-med as an undergraduate at UCSB. After graduating in 2004 with a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, Sharon worked as a health editor at 7x7 Magazine in San Francisco. To delve deeper into medical journalism, she has accepted editorial positions with UCSF medical center, Keck School of Medicine of USC and Livestrong.com. She has also worked as a freelance health writer for several publications, such as Yoga Journal, Whole Life Times, New You Magazine, Healthline.com, and NPR. Sharon was also a high school biology teacher for 5 years and has also taught yoga and meditation for adults and in schools for more than 10 years.

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