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!)

 

POM-001
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

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