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Downward Facing Dog Pose

Yoga Pose: Downward Facing Dog

Pose of the Month:  Downward Facing Dog Pose

Sanskrit:  Adho Mukha Svanasana

How to Pronounce:  (AH-DO MOO-KAH-SHVA-NAH-SUN-UH)

Downward facing dog pose may be the quintessential pose that comes to mind when yoga comes up in conversation.  This pose, no matter how foundational it may be or how many times you practice it, is filled with endless opportunities to learn and adapt.  After learning the basics of the posture, we can discover more length and levels of comfort that you can bring onto your mat every time you come into this pose.

Instructions:

  1. Come to table top position placing your hands shoulder width apart and knees hip distance apart
  2. Spread the fingers and align middle fingers and wrist creases forward
  3. Press evenly through the fingers, knuckles and outer edges of the hands
  4. Tuck your toes under so the balls of your feet press into the mat
  5. Press into the hands while lifting the hips to create an inverted triangle shape with the body
  6. Reach the heels without rounding the back to feel a stretching sensation in the back of the legs
  7. Lengthen equally through the side body
  8. Roll the shoulder blades down the back and open the collar bone to allow more space in the heart center
  9. Align the ears with the biceps while externally rotating the inner elbows forward
  10. Look between your knees and soften your gaze
  11. Breathe deeply 4-8 breaths
  12. To release bend the knees and lower into table top or come all the way down to Child’s Pose

Benefits:

  • Deeply stretches the back and opens the chest
  • Builds upper body strength
  • Mild inversion
  • Stimulates the brain and nervous system improving memory, concentration, hearing and eyesight

Contraindications:

  • Recent or chronic injury to the back, hips, arms or shoulders
  • Unmediated high blood pressure
  • Not advisable for eye injuries and glaucoma

Mindfulness

  • Downward dog is meant to be practiced with a neutral spine respecting the “s” curves of the lumber, thoracic and cervical vertebrae
  • However, many lack flexibility in the hamstrings and end up compensating by flexing (rounding) the lower back which can lead to injury
  • We can access the “s” curve by bending the knees and lifting through the hips while creating the proper hinge at the hip

Modifications:

  • Use blocks under the hands or head
  • Place a folded towel under the wrists
  • Press both heels against a wall
  • Roll a blanket under the heels

Variations:

  • One Leg Downward Dog with internal or external rotation of the extended leg/hip
  • Downward Dog Twist
  • Dolphin Pose

Vinyasa Sequence Suggestions:

  • Build a sequence leading up to this pose:  Table Top, Cat, Cow, Head to Knee movement (Tiger), Bear Plank
  • Build a sequence ending after this pose:  Plank, Upward Facing Dog, Childs, High Lunge

Try a class in our new boutique yoga studio, The Practice.