POSE OF THE MONTH: DOWNWARD FACING DOG

It’s almost impossible to go through a yoga class without doing at least one downward-facing dog… A challenging pose for both beginner yogis and more experienced yogis who may not have practiced in a while, downward dog eventually becomes a much-cherished resting pose during those fast-paced sequences and classes (I know, I didn’t believe the teacher either when they said this during my first class…).

POM 3-001

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • An inverted ‘V’ shape with the body- sending the hips high towards the sky
  • Hands shoulder width or wider apart
  • Fingers widely spread, middle fingers pointing forward
  • Press down into knuckles and pads of fingers – avoid dropping weight into wrists
  • Microbend in elbows to protect elbows and wrists
  • External rotation of shoulders
  • Shoulders away from ears, shoulder blades drawing down the back
  • Head and neck relaxed- gazing back towards toes and heels
  • Keep pushing hips and sit bones high
  • Feet hip width apart
  • Eventually pressing heels down towards the mat
  • Avoid locking out the knees, keep microbend to protect the knees
  • Engage through core, pull up through legs
  • Option 1: If back of the legs are tight, bend the knees as much as you need, keep sending the hips high, feel the opening through the shoulders, back and spine. (It’s more important to get this feeling of openness in the back and to keep pushing the hips up than to have straight legs!)
  • Option 2: Start to lengthen the legs and push the heels down towards the mat, only if you can keep the same feeling of openness in the back and hips don’t dip down. (Again, it’s more important to keep this feeling, even if legs can’t completely straighten.)
  • Sensitive wrists: Down dog can be quite straining on sensitive wrists. If you experience any discomfort in the wrists, you can roll up the mat or a blanket and place it under the wrists/bottom of the hand for extra padding and to alleviate some weight. Alternatively, you can come into dolphin pose.

POM 2-001
Option 1: If back of the legs are tight, bend the knees as much as you need, keep sending the hips high, feel the opening through the shoulders, back and spine. (It’s more important to get this feeling of openness in the back and to keep pushing the hips up than to have straight legs!)

 

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Option 2: Start to lengthen the legs and push the heels down towards the mat, only if you can keep the same feeling of openness in the back and hips don’t dip down. (Again, it’s more important to keep this feeling, even if legs can’t completely straighten.)

  • Dolphin Pose
    • Same feeling and similar alignment to downward facing dog
    • Drop elbows down to the mat, around shoulder width
    • Press down into forearms and hands/fingers (avoid pressing into wrists)
    • Keep shoulders down away from ears
    • Hips still pushing up towards sky
    • Gaze back towards toes- head and neck soft
    • Top of the head is off the ground- no weight on the top of the head

POM 4-001
Dolphin pose – alternative to downward facing dog if you have sensitive wrists

BENEFITS

  • Releases through arms, shoulders, neck, back, hamstrings, calves and achilles
  • Strengthens the hands, arms, shoulders and legs (especially dolphin pose)
  • Increases flexibility in shoulders, upper back and hamstrings
  • An inversion (head is below the heart)- improves circulation, sending fresh blood to the brain, calming & energising the mind and relieving stress
  • A great pose for transitioning to other poses (such as plank, wild thing, standing poses), or resting between challenging sequences

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE

POSE OF THE MONTH: SIDE PLANK POSE

Starting off the New Year with our December POM’s close relative – side plank pose!

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Vasisthasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Bottom hand directly underneath shoulder, fingers spread, middle finger pointing forward
  • Press down through knuckles of fingers to protect wrists
  • Shoulders down away from ears, shoulder blades down the back
  • Slightest micro-bend in elbows to avoid hyper-extending
  • Keep spine long, don’t let hips sag (keep pushing up), core engaged, belly button drawing back towards spine
  • Keep drawing top shoulder back, opening chest and whole body up – whole body is a flat plank of wood
  • Top hand can be placed on the hip, or extended up towards the sky
  • Gaze up towards the top hand if balance and neck are okay

There are a lot of options in this pose, so be sure to experiment and find the one that best suits your body:

  • Option 1: Bottom knee directly under hip, inside edge of top foot on mat (the bottom knee down will aid with balance and put less weight on hand)
  • Option 2: Bottom leg extends, balancing on outside edge of that foot, both feet parallel to short edge of mat (starting to increase strength in arms and challenging balance)
  • Option 3: Stack top foot on top of bottom, so only outside edge of bottom foot and palm of bottom hand are pressing into mat. Don’t let the hips sag! Remember to keep pushing hips up.
  • Option 4: MAYBE starting to lift the top leg up, challenging your balance even further! It’s very easy to forget about the hips in this option – keep pushing hips up!
  • Sensitive wrists: If you experience any discomfort or tension in the wrists, bring the forearm of the bottom arm down to the mat. Stack the shoulder directly above the elbow, forearm parallel to short edge of mat, shoulders down away from ears, neck long. Keep pressing down through forearm and finger knuckles to protect elbow. Choose your leg variations.
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Option 1: Bottom knee directly under hip, inside edge of top foot on mat (the bottom knee down will aid with balance and put less weight on hand)

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Option 2: Bottom leg extends, balancing on outside edge of that foot, both feet parallel to short edge of mat (starting to increase strength in arms and challenging balance)

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Option 3: Stack top foot on top of bottom, so only outside edge of bottom foot and palm of bottom hand are pressing into mat. Don’t let the hips sag! Remember to keep pushing hips up.

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Option 4: MAYBE starting to lift the top leg up, challenging your balance even further! It’s very easy to forget about the hips in this option – keep pushing hips up!

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Sensitive wrists: If you experience any discomfort or tension in the wrists, bring the forearm of the bottom arm down to the mat. Stack the shoulder directly above the elbow, forearm parallel to short edge of mat, shoulders down away from ears, neck long. Keep pressing down through forearm and finger knuckles to protect elbow. Choose your leg variations.

BENEFITS

  • Practicing balance, building heat, strength and stability in wrists, arms, shoulders, back, core and legs
  • Preparing the body for stronger poses, such as arm balances

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE

POSE OF THE MONTH: PLANK POSE

Can you believe that it’s December already?! This year has really flown by…

Finishing off 2016 with our strong plank pose – starting to fire up and strengthen the wrists, arms, core and legs…

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Fingers spread, middle finger pointing forward, press down through knuckles of fingers to protect wrists
  • Shoulders down away from ears, shoulder blades down the back
  • Slight micro-bend in elbows to avoid hyper-extending
  • Stack shoulders directly above wrists
  • Keep spine long, neck long, core engaged, drawing belly button back towards spine
  • Option 1: Knees to the mat, keep spine long, shoulders back and down, core engaged
  • Option 2: Legs extended, push back through heels, one straight line from crown of head to heels, core engaged
  • Sensitive wrists: If you experience any discomfort or tension in the wrists, bring the hands into fists and balance on fists OR roll mat or blanket up into heel of hands for support OR come down onto forearms.

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Option 1: Knees to the mat, keep spine long, shoulders back and down, core engaged

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Option 2: Legs extended, push back through heels, one straight line from crown of head to heels, core engaged

BENEFITS

  • Building heat, strength and stability in wrists, arms, shoulders, back, core and legs
  • Preparing the body for stronger poses, such as side plank, arm balances etc.
  • A transition pose

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE

POSE OF THE MONTH: CHILD’S POSE

Welcome to the first post in our new Pose of the Month series!

First up is our beautiful resting pose, Child’s Pose!

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Balasana

VARIATIONS

  • Option 1: Knees together, sit bones down towards heels, arms out long beside legs, forehead to mat
  • Option 2: Knees out wide, big toes touching, sit bones down towards heels, arms out long in front, forehead to mat

childs-pose-1 Option 1: Knees together, arms out long beside legs. Let shoulders fall forward. chids-pose-2 Option 2: Knees out wide, arms out in front. Feel stretch through arms and shoulders. Shoulders down away from ears.

 

BENEFITS

  • Resting pose
  • Releases neck, shoulders, arms, upper back, lower back
  • Stretches hips, thighs, ankles
  • Calms the mind (gently rock the head left and right for a third-eye (forehead) massage)

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE