Downward Dog pose shows up in a variety of yoga classes – why not try to get the most out of this restorative pose? Down Dog – or Adho Mukha Svanasana – is the root of Sun Salutations as it is a strengthening, lengthening and restorative yoga pose that offers many benefits. No matter the sport – yoga, weight lifting, running, or cycling – downward dog is a great compliment.
Never done yoga before? No big deal! This article will give you the tools you need to practice this crucial pose.
The Benefits of Downward Dog:
- Downward Dog is an inversion pose, meaning your head hangs upside down and below your heart. Inversion poses reverse the effects of gravity on the upper body, and increase blood flow to the brain. Increasing blood flow to the brain in an inversion pose reduces pressure on the heart, improves brain function, and reduces anxiety & depression.
- The pull & push nature of Downward Dog strengthens bones & prevents osteoporosis.
- Downward Dog lengthens and straightens the spine, relieving back pain.
- It is a whole-body stretch!
Downward Dog: How-To
Begin on your hands & knees in a “tabletop” position.
Stretch your arms forward, spread your fingers, and place your hands flat on the ground. They should be shoulder-width apart, meaning each arm is extended directly forward from the shoulder – not wide to the side, or narrowing into the middle.
Your knees & feet should be hip-width distance apart, following the same rule of extending out directly from the hips, not wider or narrower.
Begin to shift your weight off your knees and onto your toes, letting your hips push up & back into the air.
Try to straighten the knees, letting your weight settle evenly on both hands & both feet.
Push back on your hands into your hips, let your spine lengthen, as well as your hamstrings.
While Downward Dog may feel challenging at first, it is actually a resting, restorative pose.
Your body will feel different every time you practice. Try the following Down Dog variations to mix it up!
Downward Dog Variations:
Bend the knees slightly, and bring the heels off the mat. This modification of Downward Dog is easier & more restorative.
Move your feet wider than shoulder-width, which will give you a different type of lower-body stretch.
Lift one leg off the ground and extend it upwards. This is great for opening the hips and is another excellent choice for challenging your flexibility.
Bend the knee of the raised leg, and let the weight of it naturally open your hips even more. This is the natural partner to three-legged downward dog.
Reach up with the same arm as the raised leg, and grab the foot. This is an advanced version of three-legged downward dog.
Downward Dog Twist:
Perform this by centering your weight on one hand, and lifting your “free” hand up to reach for the opposite ankle. This is an advanced version of downward dog that takes concentration & balance.