I always tell my students that you will have a love/hate relationship with Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana ‘AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna’). As a beginner, you will hate it. It is considered a resting pose, but won’t feel like one until you build up strength in your shoulders and core. The love relationship will come when you realize how it lengthens, strengthens and stretches the whole body, especially the back part of the body: ankles, calves, hamstrings, upper back and shoulders.
There are many ways to come into this pose: starting from hands-and-knees (table top pose), high plank (high push-up) or stepping back from a forward fold. Whatever you chose, here are the following instructions to get the best out of Downward Facing Dog.
- From hands and knees: with the knees hips width apart, and your hands shoulder width apart
- Walk the hands out a palms distance, spread the fingers and press into the palms evenly
- Tuck the toes and lift the hips, maintaining a soft bend in the knees, lift the sit bones up towards the sky, lengthening the spine while keeping it in a neutral position by drawing the navel in and up
- Let the heart space melt back towards the thighs as you open the shoulders by rotating biceps in towards face, turning the creases of elbows to face each other
- Maintaining an open chest and strong core, gently begin to straighten the knees and draw the heels toward the mat to stretch the backs of the legs
- Continue to press your hips away from the mat as you draw the heels down towards the mat, breathing in and out for 5-10 rounds of breath
- To release, exhale to hands-and-knees or step forward to a forward fold
If you prefer, here’s the audio version.
I like to practice this after I have been sitting or standing for extended periods of time because it stretches out the legs and neutralizes and lengthens the spine. In class, this is part of a beginning sequence of warm-ups and used as a resting pose between vinyasa’s. I promise, you will learn to love this pose and it’s benefits!