What can I say, I'm on a new series kick. It must be the new year! I've decided to start a series to explore yoga postures. It will help me memorize all this info I need to cram into my yoga brain, and maybe it will help you understand some of the more amazing functions of yoga. I'll explore the correct form for the pose, its benefits, a few modifications, and some ways to push yourself to the next level.
I apologize for the less than awesome photos. Most of these are screenshots of a video I took on my iphone. I'll do better next time - maybe use a real camera. :)
The first pose of my magical new series is...
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
(Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Anyone who's been to a yoga class knows what down dog is, right? Even a good amount of people who have never set foot in a yoga class could identify it as "that one with your hands and feet on the ground and your butt up in the air", and they would be right, but there is so so so much more to downward facing dog.
The best place to start is from plank pose -with your hands and wrists directly below your shoulders, core engaged, and heels reaching for the back wall behind you.
Then you can push yourself back so that your body goes into an inverted "L" shape.
Triceps are rotating outward, shoulders are away from the ears, back is flat (not arched), neck is relaxed, and seat bones are reaching up towards the back corner of the room.
Feet are pointing straight forward, possibly turned in a tiny bit so that the outside edges (or the knife edge, as my husband calls it) of the feet are parallel to the sides of your mat. Heels are extended towards the floor and, if you're comfortable, lift your toes.
Your hands haven't moved from where they were in plank. :) Your fingers should be extending wide apart with the middle finger pointing straight forward.
Modifications might be to take the hands and feet wider - sometimes wider that your mat. This makes the stretch a little easier on your hamstrings.
If you want to get a little more challenge out of this pose, keep your hips square and level and life one leg toward the back wall/ceiling and hold it there. If this is comfortable for you, you can engage your core and try lifting your opposite hand off the floor and reaching toward the front of the room while the other leg lifts back. Then switch sides.
Why is down dog totally awesome?
First, its a relatively easy inversion. Inversions are great for energizing - getting the blood flowing to the brain to wake you up and get your on your way.
It's also excellent for warming up the shoulders. If you have some more challenging shoulder work planned for yourself - like wheel or handstand - make sure you heat up those shoulders with lots of down dog.
Another benefit of down dog, along with a number of other yoga poses, is that it can help improve digestion.
For some people, down dog can be a resting pose. If you need a break in a yoga class and find yourself comfortable in down dog, I recommended taking this posture over child's pose. :)
I'd love to hear any and all feedback on this post. Was it helpful for you? Did it bring up more questions for you? Have you learned something differently?