I would like to go deeper in this blog post into one of the most known yet most challenging yoga posture - the Downward facing dog pose.
This pose is essentially an inversion, an active one to be precise, as opposed to the relaxing one like Leg up the wall posture. It is an inversion because the head is lower than the heart. Inversions are a funny thing, because they both energize and calm the body.
I find the most important thing to remember in Downward dog pose is that we are keeping the spine long and aligned, and for that to happen the legs may have to be bent if the hamstrings are a little bit tight still. Please remember, the aim is not to put the heels down, but to have the spine elongated and to breathe freely.
Draw the abs in up towards the spine, lifting rather than dropping all the weight down and place the weight into the thumbs and index fingers to relieve the wrists. Things to be careful of NOT doing are rounding the back, hyper-extending the elbows and hunching the shoulders. Here is a short video of how to get into the pose with the right alignment:
I would also like to show a couple of modifications here to make the pose accessible to everyone.
If getting down on the floor is not an option for you, try it with a chair first, play around with the higher and lower versions:
1. Higher chair position 2. Lower chair position
If you are braving the floor, but would like a gentle version, than there are two poses getting you ready for the full one:
3. Puppy pose - Anahatasana 4. Dolphin pose - Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
Going one step further using the help of blocks either at the hands or the feet:
5. Blocks under the hands 6. Blocks under the feet
If after all this you are ready for the full monty, you still have the option to have the legs bent (where the pose is deepened, bring the belly to the thighs) or straight leg:
7. Bent legs 7. Full Downward facing dog
Just make sure you are breathing deeply :)!
Lets look at what are the benefits of this posture:
- Improves digestion, vitality and circulation - basically it gets things moving, that is why it is part of the Sun Salutation for warming up
- Strengthens and stretches arms, shoulders, neck, back, hips, abdomen, legs, calves, arches, it builds strong bones
- Encourages good posture, avoiding the slumpy-posture
- It is both a stretching and strengthening posture, doing double duty
- Calms the brain, clears the head, lowers stress levels (maybe not when you are in there...), and relieves mild depression
- Last but not least, it is said to give you the Yoga glow :-)
Therapeutic benefits of the pose:
Sinusitis, Sciatica, Flat feet, Asthma, Insomnia, Osteoporosis, Back pain, Fatigue, Digestion problems
Contraindication for practising!:
Carpal tunnel syndrome, Diarrhea, 3rd trimester pregnancy, High blood pressure, Headache