Downward Facing Dog is a staple pose in yoga for many reasons, as an active recovery or to set up the next pose, for example. There are countless benefits for your body and mind in Downward Dog. Give it a try, it can be harder than you think.
Think to yourself for a moment, how often do you hang upside down? My guess is not very often; however, an inverted posture brings fresh oxygen to the nervous system, which ultimately sooths and calms. Downward Facing Dog is just that, your body makes an inverted “V” shape and sends the fresh oxygen to your brain and spinal column. Downward Facing Dog is also great for decompressing the spine and stretching the entire back side of the body. There is one trick in Downward Facing Dog, you need to find a focus point or just close your eyes to avoid distractions. Once you can see past distractions, you’ll find Downward Facing Dog calms the mind and helps to relieve stress.
The best part… getting into Downward Facing Dog. As I noted before, you make an inverted “V” shape with your body. Here are the steps to get you into this pose:
- Start on your hands and knees (Table Top), hands lined up under your shoulders and knees hip distance apart.
- Lift your hips towards the ceiling, making that inverted “V” shape.
- Palms should be flat with fingers spread wide. Press firmly into the index finger and thumb to prevent wrist pain. Think about pressing palms away from the feet, as if trying to tear your mat in two!
- Hang your head down, relaxing your neck and find the focus point. This helps to ease any tension in neck and low back
- Firm your thighs and draw your legs back to feel a great hamstring stretch.
- Finally, extend down through your heels; keep in mind heels do not need to touch the mat.
After settling into your Downward Facing Dog, your body lets out a big sigh of relief as you stretch your shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands! If holding Downward Facing Dog is too much all at once, feel free to stay in the beginning pose, Table Top (hands and knees). Or simply shorten the distance between hands and feet to help draw the weight upwards if you feel pain in the shoulders and wrists. If this pose is really pulling on your hamstrings, bend your knees to relieve them.
Remember, this pose has so many benefits; however, the benefits are only good when you are in a Downward Facing Dog comfortable to you. Enjoy!