Posture Factfile: Downward Facing Dog

It’s a yoga legend, the pose that everyone’s heard of, but why is it so good for you?

Downward Facing Dog, known as Adho Mukha Savasana in Sanskrit is a staple in my classes and definitely in my home practice.
One of the reasons why I love Down Dog so much is that It’s a pose that has so many variations and can lead onto so many other things so it’s very rare for me not to include it when I practice at home.
It’s also what I call a really good ‘all-rounder’ because it has so many benefits.

    • It helps to build arm strength
    • Stretches the backs of the legs, and in particular can be useful for stretching your hamstrings and calf muscles
    • It’s a pose that also helps to improve circulation in the lower legs so can be especially helpful for runners
    • It’s a pose that is also useful for stretching the soft tissue in the soles of your feet
    • Increases the flow of blood to the brain
  • It also helps to stretch the muscles around your spine, helping to improve posture and flexibility

 

How to move into the posture

There are so many way to move into Dog Pose but I like to teach the posture from an all fours position as I think this is a gentle way into it and it gives you the option to lower

back down to your hands and knees if you need a break.

  1. From a keeling position, come to all fours
  2. Spread your fingers ensuring the weight is distributed evenly between your hands
  3. Breathe in mindfully through the nose
  4. On the exhale, tuck your toes under, press into your hands, lift your hips and start to straighten your legs. (For tight hamstrings, keep a soft bend in your knees)
  5. Once in the pose, try to tilt the pelvis forward so that your sitting bones lift up into the air
  6. Push through the hands and move your chest towards your thighs trying to ensure that your back isn’t rounded
  7. Relax your head to gaze comfortably between your legs
  8. Breathe easy in the pose

For Beginners: Hold the pose for 1-2 breaths initially as you build strength in the arms.

For regular yogis: Hold the pose for a few extra breaths and then once you are strong and comfortable you can begin to explore the variations.

For everyone: When you first move up into the posture don’t be in a rush to straighten your legs, instead spend a few breaths gently peddling the feet, lowering one heel as you bend the opposite knee and then change sides.

 

Variations

  • On the inhale raise one leg up in the air to find three-legged dog, use the exhale to lower the leg before you change sides.
  • You can also do the same with arms, moving one arm to touch your leg / ankle behind.
  • If you have weak wrists or arms or if you are pregnant then place the hands on a wall instead of the floor to make an L shape with your body.
  • Step one leg forward between the hands to move into a lunge position or jump the feet forward and back ‘bunny hop’ style to help build arm and shoulder strength.

Why not join me and practice Downward Facing Dog together with a group of like minded people. Click here to find out more about my weekly classes.

 

 

 

References

Rosemary ‘Prema’ Bennett Handouts

Diane Ambrosini – Instructing Hatha Yoga

Jason Crandell – Get Down Dog