Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit, is one of the most foundation yoga poses (asanas) for any yoga practice and is a great addition to any fitness regime. It stretches your hamstrings, shoulders, the arches of your feet, wrists and calves. It’s also an inversion, your hips are over your head, so there is a great calming, cooling effect on the brain while simultaneously energizing the body. In the beginning of your yoga journey, this pose might seem strenuous; As you deepen your practice it becomes more of a place to pause, relax and remember your intention. Here is the guide to downward facing dog:
- Start on your mat on your hands and knees. Your knees will be directly below your hips and your hands will by slightly forward of your shoulders.
- On an exhale, slowly start to lift your hips–but keep your knees bent. With bent knees, lengthen your tailbone back while your hips reach up–this seems counter-intuitive but will help your spine elongate. If you don’t continue reaching your pelvis down, you’re going to find an arch in your back that creates discomfort in your lumbar spine.
- Press all 10 fingers into the mat, especially the index finger and thumb (which has the tendency to lift). Work your triceps to the back of your mat as you roll your biceps to the front of the mat. This creates space in your shoulder girdle and strengthens your arms.
- Slowly begin to straighten the legs, bringing your heels as close to the mat as you can get them. The goal is not to have the heels on the floor, but to continue working the length in your spine and your hips reaching up–the hamstrings might eventually open enough for the heels to reach the mat. Don’t walk yourself into a shorter stance just to reach your heels to the mat, you will lose the benefits and stretch of the pose.
- Keep drawing your lower belly in while you relax your rib cage. Gaze between your shins, some practices call for the gaze to be at your belly.
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