Ask anyone to name a yoga pose and chances are they’ve heard of “Down Dog”. It’s a very common pose in many yoga traditions. And for good reason! Downward-facing dog posture (Adhomukha Svanasana) is a pose that mimics the shape of a dog stretching (although our pups are MUCH better at this pose than we will ever be). Adhomukha means to have your “face down”, svana means “dog”, and asana means “pose”.
Often taken to rest between flows, downward dog is a powerhouse of a pose:
- Calms the brain and gently stimulates the nerves
- Slows down the heartbeat
- Reduces stiffness and arthritis in shoulders
- Strengthens the ankles and legs
- Stretches calves and ankles
- Helps with heavy menstrual flow and may reduce hot flashes during menopause
Ready to try downward facing dog? Start on your hands and knees. Spread your fingers wide and put a bit more weight on your index fingers and thumbs to protect your wrists. Tuck toes under, inhale and lift your hips toward the ceiling making an inverted V shape. Push the floor away with your hands and “walk your dog” by bending and straightening your knees. Wag your tail slowly and let your neck soften. There’s a long, straight line from your wrists, through your shoulders, to your hips. Shoulders draw away from the ears. The pose should be 70% legs and only 30% arms. Breathe. If you’d like more thorough instructions, join us in a class or click here.
Play with the shape of your dog by moving your legs a bit wider (to relieve a tight low back) or your arms wider (for shoulder comfort). Keep your knees bent, if that keeps your spine long. If your wrists are uncomfortable, try placing something under the heels of the hands, like a foam wedge or a rolled blanket or towel.
Most importantly, FEEL the stretch. Feel long. Feel strong and centered. Just feel. Keep in mind that an asana (yoga posture) “is not a posture which you assume mechanically. It involves thought, at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance.” (BKS Iyengar)