Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This is a very popular pose and it is easy to see why: it is a position that our body is instinctively happy to get into and provides several different kinds of benefits.

 

Technique

 

  • Downward-Facing-DogThere are several ways to get into this pose, one of which is to start from the Flat Cat pose, with the knees underneath the hips and place the palms a few inches ahead of the respective shoulders.
  • Breathing in, tuck your toes under and straighten your legs behind you as you lift your hips upwards.
  • As you exhale, let the upper body drop down through the arms, as though you are encouraging your chest to reach for your thighs.
  • That’s the basic position. For some finer adjustments, consider the following:
    • If the back of the legs are stiff, then gently stretch the muscles by “walking the dog”. This consists of bending one leg slightly at the knee and, at the same time, encouraging the heel of the straight leg to reach for the mat underneath you. Repeat this every few seconds with alternate legs for about 30 seconds, then settle both heels down as close as they can to the floor. It doesn’t matter if your heals don’t touch the floor as long as you feel the back of your legs being deeply stretched.
    • Rotate the tailbone up towards the ceiling. This will encourage a further stretch in the lower back and lengthening of the spine.
    • Let the neck be nice and loose. If you wish, you can tuck the chin in slightly towards your chest so that you end up looking at your shins or knees (instead of the floor).
    • Have a good spread of your fingers to give you a stable base.
    • You can take the legs a little wider than hip width apart to help you feel more stable in the posture.
  • To come out of the pose, allow the legs to bend so that the knees come down onto the floor and then rest in Child Pose.

 

Benefits

 

  • A great way to lengthen the spine and energise the body at the same time.
  • Stretches the muscles in the back of our legs, especially the hamstrings and calves.
  • Strengthens our arms, shoulders and legs.
  • This is a weight bearing posture, helping to strengthen the bones in our arms and legs.
  • Opens up our chest and shoulders.
  • Gently stimulates the digestive organs.
  • Relaxes the central nervous system and helps to relieve stress and to calm us down.
  • The inversion uses gravity to:
    • Send venous blood back to the heart
    • Stimulates the lymphatic system.
    • Make it easier for the heart to send oxygenated blood to the brain

 

Contraindications and Precautions

 

  • Be extra cautious if suffering from High Blood Pressure
  • Come out of the pose if you start to feel dizzy or short of breath.
  • Take extra care if you have sensitive wrists or are suffering from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome: come out of the pose if there is any pain in the wrists.
  • Take extra care when pregnant and do not perform this pose in late stages of pregnancy.
  • Do not perform this pose if you have any injury to wrists, arms, feet or ankles.