Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a staple in most yoga classes, and watching people use it as a resting pose can be intimidating for new students who still find it challenging. With a consistent practice, downward dog will become a staple in your yoga flow and a comfortable place to rest. However, it will only benefit you more if you know how to properly find your downward facing dog. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to enter the pose and find proper alignment.
1. Start in table top pose (hands and knees) and as you firmly press all ten fingers and knuckles into the mat, tuck your toes and lift the hips up and back towards the sky. Warm up by pedaling out the feet: one at a time to start, and then begin to bend them simultaneously. This will help you feel the sensation of a long, straight spine. This is the goal of downward facing dog - a straight spine that creates space and length.
2. Swinging the hips from side to side and rotating the ribcage slightly will create space and length along the side body as well. It’s important to feel these sensations in your warm up so that you know how your downward dog should feel.
3. To find stillness, put a gentle bend in the knees and reach the hips high. Slowly begin to straighten your knees as your thighs reach back and the heels energetically lower toward the mat. Keep pressing your chest towards your thighs.
PSA - it’s totally okay if your heels don’t reach the mat! It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. The goal of downward facing dog is to create a long spine, so always focus your energy on that. Some people’s heels may never reach the mat (due to body proportions), and that’s absolutely fine.
4. Once you are in your downward dog, keep your hands and feet in place as you begin to roll forward to plank, or top of a push up. Press into your hands, pull the belly up towards the spine and engage the legs by pressing back through the heels. Do a few downward dog > plank flows to help warm up the shoulders and the core.
5. Before finishing, hold your plank pose for 3 full rounds of breath and then drop your knees to the ground and take a child's pose.
Morgan Gertler Pirog
Writer/Dreamer: Creating Things of Enduring Value
Morgan is a believer that positive thoughts will lead to positive actions. She found yoga several years ago and was immediately drawn to the unification of body, breath & mind. Her other loves include her husband, her pit bull mix Jagger and mermaids.