Downward Facing Dog Pose

Sanskrit

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho = down
Mukha = face
Svāna = dog
Asana = pose

Directions

Here are some quick tips for Downward Facing Dog Pose…

Tip #1 | Knees bent

New students with stiff backs and legs don’t need to try and force their legs to be straight.   The huge effort it takes to straighten the legs pushes way too much weight forward onto their hands which has the knock on effect of dropping their hips too low.  So, if you’re struggling to straighten your legs, it’s OK to BEND them.   This ‘bending’ will help the spine to extend down from the hips and place 80% of the weight on the feet instead of  the vulnerable hands…and now the classic Downward Facing Dog form will appear.

Tip #2 | Weight on feet

Be aware of where most of your weight is being placed.  Most beginner students will pile 80% of their weight onto their hands.  This is a big NO, NO.  The hands have wee little bones in them which means putting too much weight on them can cause injury.    Instead, 80% of the weight needs to be focused onto the feet.

Tip #3 | Use hands to push weight back onto feet

The name of the Downward Facing Dog game is to get as much weight off your hands as possible and as much weight into your feet as possible.   That’s done by using your hands to push the weight onto the feet.

Tip #4 | Vary the stance

Vary the width and length (more distance between hands and feet) of the stance.

Tip #5 | Puppy pose

Perform puppy pose (Downward Facing Dog on knees) and then Downward Facing Dog.   Be aware of the stretch going on in your backs during both poses.  If the Puppy pose stretch feels similar to Downward Facing Dog, you’re getting the benefits of the pose.

Benefits

  • Shoulder stretch
  • Calms nervous system
  • Stimulates abdominal organs & thyroid gland
  • Stretches shoulders
  • Helps relieve symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces stress & fatigue
  • Therapeutic for backache, headache, infertility, insomnia & sinusitis
  • Tones arms
  • Sculpts thighs
  • Shoulder opener
  • Entire backside of body is set free

Precautions

  • High blood pressure
  • Pregnancy
  • Headache

Modification

Bend knees:  One of the great things about yoga is that modifications open the doors to yoga to students of all abilities.   When you modify Downward Facing Dog, the physical focus is on lengthening the spine and opening up your upper back.  That means you get the same benefits from bending your knees as you would with straight knees (the only difference is that you wouldn’t get such a deep stretch for the hamstrings. 

Bend knees & blockBend knees and rest each hand on a a yoga block. 

Puppy Pose: Come onto knees into Extended Child Pose (a.k.a Puppy Pose) and finish in Child Pose. 

Use a chair: If you have tight hamstrings, here’s a great modification.   Practice Downward Facing Dog by putting your hands on a chair (instead of the mat).   The chair will allow you to straighten your legs and get a good hamstring stretch in while keeping a long, straight spine.   However, don’t limit yourself to only using chairs.   For example, you could also use a sofa, table,  bed, kitchen sink and wall.   The higher the prop, the more you will be able to straighten your legs (hamstring stretch) while still maintaining the long, straight spine that is the core of Downward Facing Dog.     

Use a wall:  If you have wrist or shoulder injuries, practice Downward Facing Dog using a wall as a prop.  

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