Downward facing Dog is the most recognized of all yoga poses. It appears in most styles of yoga as either a strengthening pose, a transition pose, or a resting pose. Getting the alignment right is not only important for your anatomy, it also helps you truly love this pose.
Here are 10 tips to improve your Downward Dog:
- Hands should be shoulder distance apart.
Spread your fingers wide, press firmly through your palms and knuckles and align your wrist crease to the front of the mat. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
- Feet are sit-bone or hip distance apart.
Look back and check your feet. If you can see your heels, try turning them out slightly so you can’t see them anymore.
- Activate your arms.
As you press down through your wrists, feel the energy draw back up to activate your arms. Feel as though your thumbs want to draw in magnetically towards each other, which will slightly rotate your forearms inwards, towards each other.
- Neck and head continue along the same line as the spine
The neck is part of the spine and it should follow the same natural line.
- Keep strong shoulder blades and broaden across the upper back.
Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and toward your tailbone. Broaden across your collar bones.
- Engage the lower belly by drawing the navel in towards the spine.
A firm core is key and can help take some weight off from the shoulders and wrists, and back into the legs. Draw the lower ribs in and keep this core activation going throughout the pose.
- Bend knees a little and send the sit-bones and tailbone up and back.
Feel the difference this makes in your spine. If you have tight hamstrings, for the sake of your back you are far better to practice this pose with bent knees rather than force the heels down and compromise length in the spine. Focus first on your spine first, heels down second.
- Inner thighs rotate inwards as you firm the outer thighs.
Do this, and notice how much easier it becomes to lift the sit bones up and back.
- Straighten legs without changing the shape in the spine or pelvis.
Once you’ve reached this point, you can start to press the heels down.
When the muscles in the backs of the legs are ready to lengthen, they’ll lengthen. Be patient.
- To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your starting position.