05 Oct Pose of the week: Downward Facing Dog
I have heard Adho Mukha Svanasana referred to in so many different ways – Down Dog; Adho; Downward Dog etc. but no matter what we call it, it’s benefits are so great it is definitely a pose not to be missed out of your practise.
Downward Facing Dog / Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho = Downward Mukha = Face Svan = Dog Asana = pose
What is Downward Facing Dog?
This pose is one of the holy grail poses, in my opinion. I have never been to a class where you don’t pass through Down Dog to get to another pose, or take a few breaths in this pose.
According to B.K.S Iyengar, staying in this pose for long periods of time can remove fatigue and bring back lost energy. I like this pose as it stretches your calf muscles and your deltoids (muscles by the shoulder blades).
When doing this pose, you are aiming for a straight back, relaxed shoulders, long neck and high sit bones. Some people who have practising for many years (including myself) cannot get their heels to the floor. To be honest this is not something that worries me as I have come to accept that no amount of practice will do this, it is just to do with the length of my muscles in that area.
To make this pose easier, especially at the beginning of practice, in the mornings or if you are a beginner, bend your knees. This way it releases tension in the calf muscle, so you can focus on the alignment of your spine and raising the sit bones.
What are the benefits of Downward Facing Dog?
- Eases stiffness and back pain.
- Boosts circulation.
- Helps to centre, calm and bring the attention back to the body.
How to do Downward Facing Dog:
1. Start on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are underneath the shoulders and knees are hip width apart.
2. Tuck the toes under and slowly raise the hips – push into the hands and unbend the knees.
3. Lower your heels as much as you can to the floor and relax the shoulders. Ensure the back of the head is lengthened, you should be looking back at your feet.
4. Stay in the pose as long as is comfortable for you (I usually say about 3-5 breaths).
5. To come out of the pose bend the knees and place them on the floor. Move in to Childs Pose and rest there for a few breaths.
This pose is a great one to come back to when you need a break from a tough sequence or to help you control the breath!
Areas for caution:
- Pregnancy – Avoid doing this pose in the later stages of pregnancy
- High Blood Pressure – As the head is below the heart it is unsuitable for those with HBP.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – As this pose relies a lot of the hands and fingers it can become painful for those with CTS.
Give it a go – It’s just like what O2 said in their advert: