How to Nail Your Downward Facing Dog
About Downward Facing Dog:
Downward Facing Dog is a yoga pose you are likely to see in all Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Hatha yoga sequences and is included in Sun Salutations - so a bread and butter yoga pose.
Downward Facing Dog is translated from Sanskrit Adho Mukha Svanasana, "adho" meaning "downward", "mukha" meaning "face", "svana" meaning "dog" and "asana" meaning "pose.
Why we love it:
This is a pose working on the whole body - arms, shoulders, abdomen, ankles, calves, hamstrings and spine. It's a great pose to stretch the entire body, and is also considered as an inversion. More and more fitness instructors are starting to include Downdog (shorten from Downward Facing Dog) into their high intensity classes during warm up and cool down as it stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles as well as tones the quadriceps.
A common misconception by yoga beginners is that your heels need to touch the floor. However, not all bodies are the same and we all have varying levels of mobility, body history and composition, and some days our bodies just feel stiffer than usual! The aim is to keep your back straight so if you need, keep your knees bent and lift your heels up.
You can start on all fours (table top pose) or plank pose, tuck your toes under and on the exhale, lift your hips up and back.
Keep your feet hip-width distance, engage your core and keep your shoulder away from your ears. Spread your fingers wide and try to apply an equal pressure on all your fingers. Keep your head between your arms with your ears in line with your upper arms to align your neck and head along the same line as your spine.
Finally, gaze at your navel or your thighs. Stay in the pose for a few breaths and come to a Child's Pose on an exhalation.
If this is your first Downward Facing Dog of the day (or since a while...!) try to see how it feels to pedal your feet up and down: lifting one heel off the floor at the time and bending the opposite knee.
If your heels reach the ground, you can go a bit further in the play by lifting your toes off the floor.
While Downward Facing Dog is a great all-rounders of yoga, it also teaches you to create a place of stillness in your practice. Eventually with practice, this pose can become a resting pose between Asanas and give your a sense of play.