Downward Facing Dog is a staple in any yoga practice, and one of the most effective poses to loosen up the body and mind. The pose has many benefits including:
- stretches shoulders, hamstrings, calves, hands, and the arches of the feet
- strengthens arms and legs
- relieves headache, back pain and fatigue
- therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma and sciatica
1) Start on hands and knees ("table top") stacking your shoulders over wrists, knees over ankles, tops of the feet flat on the floor. Wrist creases are parallel with the top of your mat. Spread fingers wide and root down through the pointer finger and thumb knuckle. Draw shoulder blades down the back - you will feel length in the neck. Engage Uddiyana bandha (draw navel back and up towards spine).
2) Curl toes under and lift hips up and back with slightly bent knees. The body is in a straight line from wrist creases to hips. Internally rotate the thighs by drawing them up and in - you will feel an opening in the hips. Relax the heels of the feet towards the floor, straightening the legs if it is comfortable. Not to worry if your heels do not touch the floor, this will come in time.
3) Engage the outer arms as you root down through the base of the index finger and thumb. Widen the shoulder blades and draw them back towards the hips. Neck is long,ears in line with biceps. Relax the jaw, let the tongue fall away from the roof of the mouth.
4) Breathe - slow, deep inhales and exhales, through the nose utilizing ujjayi (victorious) breath. Hold for 3 breaths and up to 3 minutes. Release by bringing your knees to the earth, and pushing back into Child's Pose.
1) If the shoulders will not release, raise the hands off of the floor by placing them on blocks.
2) Puppy is a great modification that allows the spine to lengthen without putting pressure on the wrists or shoulder. Begin in table top and walk arms forward creating a straight line from wrist creases to hips (keep knees over hips) spreading fingers wide. Complete steps 3 and 4 above.
student of life, practicioner & teacher of yoga