Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is a classic inversion pose utilized in many yoga classes. Some of you may have heard this pose considered a “resting” pose, most likely because it’s a pause position in sun salutations, but “rejuvenating” pose may be closer to the truth.
Energetically Downdog is a whole body experience, but the hands take on the majority of the workload in this pose, since they are the grounding connection and the energy originator. Make sure your hands and wrist are warmed up before attempting this pose.
To setup Downward Dog:
- Hands spread wide: fingers help provide more surfaces area to grip and balance with
- Palms planted down: focus on planting from the inside of your hands first, the webbing between your thumb and index finger, and then shift the weight to the rest of your hand. Typically putting the weight on the inside of your hand and ball of your hand help with wrist fatigue, but every body is different so see what works for you each day.
- Ears in between your arms
- Shoulders are back and down, away from your ears, shoulder blades trying to come towards one another: shoulders stay within the body to counter the hip reach and hand press, otherwise you’re pulling your shoulders away from the sockets
- Chest is lifted and open: reaching towards the upper thighs
- Hips reach up to elongate the spine
- Heels reach down to elongate the back of the legs
Inhale: palms plant, shoulders draw away from ears, energy travels from hands to hips
Exhale: shoulder blades and rib cage squeeze towards one another, low belly draws in, energy travels from hips to heels
For every one yoga pose there are several other poses that help build into the position. Every time you move, you’re gaining knowledge of how your body functions, which translates into every position you want to attempt. Basically any pose could be a foundational pose, because all of them are teaching you how your body functions, but some poses correlate more specifically than others.
For Downdog purposes, this pose helps get the plant in the hands and focus of shoulders away from the ears, without having to support your body weight.
You‘re using your hands to press your hips towards your heels, elongating your spine
This pose begins the transition of putting your body weight into your arms and your head in space.
Keep your head and neck an extension of your spine, ears in between your arms. Here you can feel the effect of using your hands to press your hips up.
Shoulders back and down, using your exhales to activate your pelvic floor.
This pose decreases the fulcrum from the hands to the shoulders.
Here you can focus more on the hip to heel connection, elongating through the back of the legs.
Using your forearms to plant, bring the shoulders away from the ears, chest towards thighs, hips up, and heels reach down.
Props are a beautiful bridge between where you are today and where you’d like to be tomorrow. There is no award for “they who suffered most in yoga”, when you’re in a studio with props available, use them! Your teachers are here to help you so please ask questions. if you’re able to get to class early that can be a great time to play on the props and talk with your teachers.
For Downward Dog you can use blocks under your hands, or a bolster under your forearms, or a blanket under your heels, or a bolster under your head, or use a wall as the ground for your hands or a chair! Just to name a few ways to explore Downward dog with props.
There are so many different ways to play around with every position. Each pose gives us a variety of ways to explore ourselves as we are today. Have fun, enjoy the process of learning about yourself and breathe.