Have you ever seen a dog press his paws on the floor in front of him and bow his chest down as a signal that he wants to play? Well, you can awaken your inner pup with downward dog pose. Also known as downward facing dog, or simply downdog, this posture is a foundational pose in yoga, meaning it is performed in just about every yoga class.
Benefits of Downward Dog:
This pose has many benefits for the body, including creating length in the spine and lower body, while simultaneously increasing strength in the arms, shoulders and back. Also, since the head falls below the heart in this pose, it is considered an inversion. Compared to more complicated inversions like handstand or headstand, downward dog is a gentler way to incorporate an inversion into your yoga practice, especially if you are a beginner.
How to Perform Downward Dog:
1) Set up:
Start on your hands and knees on the mat. Place your knees directly below your hips, and wrists a couple inches forward of your shoulders. The crease at the top of your wrists should be parallel to the top of your mat. Spread your fingers apart wide.
2) Getting into the pose:
On an inhale, tuck your toes underneath you and on an exhale press into your hands and lift your hips to the ceiling. Avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears by rotating your shoulders outward. Straighten your arms, but avoid locking your elbows by slightly engaging your biceps. Gaze back at your toes and keep your ears in line with your arms.
Add tips from the photo. Focus on lifting the tailbone/pelvis alignment since that is what most people don’t understand in this pose. End this graph with a breathing cue, such as: Remember to breathe deeply in and out through the nose.
Hands should be about shoulder width distance apart and feet should be about hips width distance apart. Think less about straightening your legs in the pose and more about lengthening the spine by sending your hips high to the sky.
Modifications (Need to make it easier?):
If you have trouble straightening your legs (which most people do), you can keep a slight bend in your knees. With the breath, bend one knee and then the other to gently and slowly feel the stretch in your hamstrings and calves. After some practice with this pose, you can slowly start to straighten both legs, releasing the heels toward the mat while simultaneously lifting the tailbone toward the ceiling.
Deepen the Pose (Need to make it harder?):
Continue to engage your quadriceps as you actively press your hamstrings back behind you.