Downward Facing Dog (Down Dog) Pose
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana
1st image of Maggie Anderson taken by Donald Anderson IV
2nd image of Maggie Anderson taken by Maggie Anderson
The most common yoga pose around! Nicknamed, Down Dog, this is a perfect inverted “V” in the body. It’s great for aligning the spine, elongating the back, legs and arms. This pose can really open up the chest and heart as well. You will do this pose in the traditional Sun Salutation as well.
Okay, so usually you are on a flat surface, not working your way over a little river. 🙂 But I loved doing it and the pose is so awesome! What’s nice it this still illustrates the perfect pose for Down Dog. You’ll find this pose in most yoga classes and most commonly used in a Sun Salutations and Vinyasa sequences.
It’s a beautiful transitionary pose as you flow into one pose or out of another. Eventually, this pose becomes your resting pose. When you first start out it may not feel that way. But eventually you will long for a Down Dog as you evolve in your yoga practice. I practice the Five Tibetans (an ancient Tibetan practice also known as the Fountain of Youth) every morning and this, in combination with Upward-Facing Dog, is one of the five. It just feels so good!
You will enjoy more challenging postures and then come into this pose and stretch your *whole* body in the process. Not only that, but Down Dog:
- Calms the brain
- Helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with the head supported
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headaches, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- And it is therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis
It’s just all-around excellent for your health. Why would you *not* do this pose during your yoga practice. 🙂 Enjoy!!!
Directions on how to come into the pose:
Begin in Child’s pose (knees on ground, slide hips back to meet heels and rest head on mat). Then slowly rise up, keep hands on mat slightly forward from shoulders and knees under hips. Curl the toes under and begin to lift your knees off the mat, straightening the legs making an inverted V position with your body. Push up up up through the tailbone. Allow your heels to reach for the mat (they do not need to touch but if and when they do, see if you can lift your toes off the mat, but only if heels are touching the mat). No air bubbles in those hands, fingers wide and hands shoulder width apart. Feet are hip distance. Shoulders are wide and back and away from the ears; and in a nice centered location – not too far forward or back. Press the chest down as if reaching for your thighs, open the heart. Though remember to avoid a banana back. Lift high from the tailbone to the sky. Elongate the spine and feel the stretch. Allow your head to hang loose and drink your breath. Breathe deeply. Hold for 3-5 deep cleansing breaths.
To come out, perhaps you can drop your knees down onto the mat and slide your hips back to your heels, coming back into Child’s pose. Rest here. This is a pose you can do whenever Down-Dog becomes a bit much. But as you strengthen your body, you will be able to hold Down-Dog longer and enjoy it more fully and deeply. Slide your hands up to your knees sitting up and roll out your wrists. Down Dog works a lot in the wrists, so it’s helpful to loosen them up; release the tension.
When not to do this pose or to modify / Contraindications:
You may need avoid or modify this pose if you have Carpel tunnel syndrome or symptom of Diarrhea. And it’s not recommended to do this pose if you are in your late-term of pregnancy. If you have high blood pressure or a headache, try to modify this pose by supporting your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.
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