Downward dog is one of the most widely-known yoga poses of the bunch. A staple of Sun Salutations, downward dog is a strengthening, lengthening, restorative yoga pose with many benefits. Everyone – from Yogis to Weightlifters to Runners to Cyclists – can benefit from practicing downward dog.
Never done yoga before? No problem! The rest of this article will give you the tools you need to try out this amazing yoga pose. If you’re interested in learning other basic yoga poses, check out this Yoga Basics program made by Patrick Beach.
Downward Dog Benefits:
- Downward dog is an inversion pose, meaning your head up-side-down and below your heart. Inversion poses reverses the effect of gravity on the upper body, and increases 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
- Lengthens & straightens the spine, relieving back pain
- 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 in to 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.
- Hold this pose for as long as it feels comfortable. While Downward Dog may feel challenging at first, it is actually a resting, restorative pose.
If you learn better through video, check out this Yoga Basics program with Patrick Beach. Yoga Basics is a set of video tutorials made for people who want to try yoga, but are too scared to go to a studio first.
Downward Dog Variations:
Modify your downward dog to be easier & more restorative by bending the knees slightly, and bringing the heels off the mat.
Get a different type of lower-body stretch with wide-legged downward dog by moving your feet to be wider than shoulder-width.
Another excellent choice for challenging your flexibility, lift one leg off the ground & extend it upwards. This is great for opening the hips.
This is the natural partner to three-legged downward dog. Simply bend the knee of the raised leg, and let the weight of it naturally open your hips even more.
An advanced version of three-legged downward dog, reach up with the same arm as the raised leg, and grab the foot.
An advanced version of downward dog that takes concentration & balance. Perform this by centering your weight on one hand, and lifting your “free” hand up to reach for the opposite ankle.