Pose Breakdown--Downward Facing Dog
So it seems simple enough…you see it in almost every yoga class you go to most likely. But are you doing Downward Facing Dog correctly?
It’s one of the poses often associated with yoga and it’s often done numerous times throughout a class. Why is it done so much? It stretches and strengthens the entire body! So you may want to make sure that you are doing it correctly.
The basics of the pose, or the way I would teach it to a first timer would be start on all fours (hands and knees). Gently start to press your hips up and back towards the sky. Spread your fingers like starfish (to help evenly distribute the weight throughout your hands and ground down through every knuckle) and reach your arms out in front of you while simultaneously reaching your hips up and back. Your heels come towards the ground, but not necessarily to the ground (don’t make your heels not reaching the ground your main focus).
You’ve done this before? Great. Now let’s get a bit more specific. Your spine should feel long and lengthened, so lengthen all the way through your tailbone. Often times newcomers will have a rounded spine…usually after a few times they start to get the feel for it, but what gets tricky is when you do it for a while and still have that rounded spine. That’s when you can cause some problems to your body, so if you’ve been doing this for a while, start to check yourself out and make sure your body looks like a triangle with the floor or and inverted “V” position. No roundness to the spine in this pose. Release your shoulders away from your ears and let the crown of your head reach towards your hands as you notice your arms in line with your ears. Reach out through the front of the body and press down with the heels. If you have trouble holding this pose without your back rounding, then bend your knees a bit to modify.
Want to know if you have your hands and feet in the right spot—come forward into a plank position. If you have to move your hands and feet once you get there, that’s ok, but move back into downward dog from here and now you know that you’ve got the correct distance between your hands and feet.
Downward Facing Dog is considered an inversion, meaning your head is below your heart. It offers many of the benefits of other inversions, without having to turn your body fully upside down or put your body into a headstand or shoulder stand. Some of the many benefits include increasing circulation, improving digestion and helping to relieve headaches.
As with any pose or yoga practice, always listen to your own body for cues. Honor where your body is today and never force anything that doesn’t feel right.
Did you know there was so much to remember in Downward Facing Dog? I hope this gave you a new perspective and maybe a new way to think about it. But don’t get too caught up in the details. If you learned something new, that’s great, but focus on one aspect of it at a time.
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