How to do Downward Facing Dog
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The Downward Facing Dog is a beginner-level pose that increases flexibility and upper body strength. This pose activates and stretches specific muscles like the shoulder, spine, calves, and hamstrings. Practicing Downward Facing Dog also improves energy levels, provides clarity and strength to the mind and releases confusion or unsteadiness and disturbances the mind is facing when stressed. It is also an integral building block of any Sun Salutation or Vinyasa practice, so in this video we will show you the proper alignment of practicing Downward Facing Dog.
Downward facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is an integral building block of any Sun Salutation or vinyasa practice. Since we repeat it so many times, let's make sure we have the basics and the details about this posture right.
This is a beginner level forward folding inversion pose, if you are currently suffering from extreme back pain, headache or high blood pressure do skip this posture. So let's get started! We'll start on all fours, you can take your palm slightly ahead of the shoulders and make sure you're engaging the palms completely, so you're not falling on any one edge of the palm, you're not dropping the weight into your wrists but you're moving the weight onto the tips of the fingers as well, the knuckles are active and the little finger, as well as the thumbs, are nicely pressing down into the mat.
The arms are active, shoulders are broad and from here, you can tuck the toes in and lift the knees off the mat. As you come into this pose, start extending through your elbows keeping the shoulders broad. You can slightly externally rotate your shoulders, so the chest remains broad and start lengthening the spine and the sit bones up towards the ceiling. Make sure the spine is long, you're not kind of rounding this making this kind of shape, but you're lengthening it out.
Once you have your hips up, you can start working into your legs. You can start straightening the knees, moving the heels down towards the floor, even if they don't touch that's okay, and make sure your feet are hip-distance apart. The toes are not out, nor are they in, but they are pointing directly forward.
You can stay here, take some long deep breaths, and make sure your neck is not pitching forward but your head is in line with the upper arms. If you're still comfortable you can start moving your chest closer to your thighs and keep moving the thighs back. As you feel a nice deep long stretch in your glutes and your hamstrings, stay here for five long deep breaths.
Once you're done, you can drop your knees down and rest in Child's pose. You can take your arms back to relax your shoulders and your wrists.
I'll now show you a scaled-down version. If this is not very accessible to you, you can do the scale down and if this was really easy I'll show you a scale up for the same posture. So we start once again and come into a mountain, but this time for the scale down you can keep your knees bent. Especially good if you have lower back issues, tight hamstrings, or some knee pain, and you can hold it here for five deep breaths.
If this was really easy for you, you can straighten the knees out shift the weight onto your left foot, and take the right leg all the way up. Just making sure you don't open the hip out but the hip is rolled in toes are pointed and the head is moving down towards the floor. Keep the navel drawn in and breathe. Switching sides. Take the other leg all the way up, stay here, keep pressing the heels down, keep pressing the palms into the mat. Stable shoulders, stable hips, equal weight on both hands. And release.
Good! drop the knees down and sit back in Child's pose if you need to.
So this was downward-facing dog. It's a very beneficial posture since it stretches out the entire back body starting from your shoulders and the entire spine, it stretches the glutes, as well as the hamstrings. It's a very calming pose since it's an inversion, so do try and include it in your practice.
So this was downward-facing dog. Next time you practice a sun salutation or your vinyasa try to keep these alignments in mind and I hope they work for you. The downward-facing dog is a very effective posture for strengthening your wrists, your shoulders, as well as stretching out the entire back body; your spine, your glutes, the hamstrings, all the way down to the ankles. It also works on the stability of your shoulder girdle as well as your pelvic girdle.
I hope you enjoyed this video, we have live online classes at Shvasa.com, with small group sizes that work on such details along with you, if you want to improve your practice. Do try out a class, and I hope to see you there.