When I first started out on my yoga Journey I use to absolutely dread downward facing dog pose, every single part of my body seemed to ache especially my tight shoulders and hamstrings. It took me a number of years to start to really enjoy and love this pose. Since then, I’ve grown to adore this pose. Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class, you most likely have heard of this one. The pose resembles that of an upside down letter V or upside down triangle.
This pose is the garlic of yoga – it combines of benefits of an inversion, arm balance, forward bend, and restorative pose all rolled into one. Below I’m providing you with the benefits of this pose, a step-by-step guide and who shouldn’t practice this pose.
- Releases any held tension in the spine.
- Helps to reduce thoracic kyphosis (which is an exaggerated curvature of the upper spine).
- Removes fatigue and stiffness from the back.
- It boosts circulation.
- It wakes you up (B.S.K. Iyengar, the 94-year-old founder of Iyengar yoga, says that Downward Dog is one of the best poses you can do when you’re fatigued. He recommends at least a minute in the pose. It works well for those of us who are just tired from a long day at the office, too).
- It builds bone density (postures like downward dog where we place weight on the arms and shoulders are great for preserving bone density).
- Helps to decrease anxiety (by having your cervical spine and neck elongated naturally through the stretch this can relax your head and is known to decrease anxiety).
- Decreases tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and neck and relaxing the head.
- This pose also assists the body internally, as explained by acupuncturist Sara Calabro. Through her recent article, Sara revealed that the pose activates your “bladder channel”, the longest channel in the human body according to acupuncture; starting from your head, down your entire spine and to your pinkie toe.
- Strengthens the wrists, arms and shoulders.
- Stretches the backs of the legs and opens the hips.
Who Shouldn’t Do This Pose
Those with injuries to the wrists and carpel tunnel syndrome. Those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or detached retina. Those with recent disc injuries should take Half-Dog at the wall.
- Start by coming to all fours with your hands resting slightly in front of the shoulders.
- Spread your fingers wide apart so as to distribute your weight evenly across both hands.
- On your next exhale, press away from the floor with your hands and lift your knees up, reaching back with your sitting bones and tail. Your arms will be in one long line from your hands through to your tail.
- With each exhale yield the weight of your arms to the floor as you simultaneously lift your pelvis up and back off your spine.
- Bringing your focus now to your shoulders, start to rotate your shoulders outward and away from your ears. This releases tension in your neck and upper spine. If you rotate the shoulders inward, this will actually restrict the neck and upper spine and cause even more tension preventing the flow of force from your arms through to your shoulder blades.
- Now start to bring your awareness to your legs, start to walk your dog out by bending and straightening one leg at a time which will benefit tight hamstrings or Achilles tendons.
- Push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down towards the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly.
- You can stay in this pose from 1-3 mins or as long as it feels comfortable.
- To come out of the pose, slowly bend your knees and come to rest in child’s pose.
I hope you learn to love this pose as much as I do.
Be kind, be courageous, be yourself.
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