Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana

Whew! That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? I have to admit, one of my favorite things about yoga is the really cool names of the poses or postures. One of these days, I will take some time to gain a deeper appreciation for the given names of the poses, but for now, I thing they’re cool and they make me smile, so that works for me.

One pose that I really enjoy is Downward Facing Dog. This pose really opens up my shoulders and helps my back stretch out and relax. Downward Dog, as it is also called, is one of the first poses to learn when you are beginning a yoga practice. It is used as a resting pose and also as a transitional pose. It is also excellent for strengthening your entire body.

Here’s how you tackle Downward Facing Dog:

1. Move onto your hands and knees. Keep your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.

2. Curl your toes and push back. Lift up those hips and straighten your legs.

3. Spread your fingertips wide and squeeze down from your forearms right into your fingertips.

4. Roll those upper arms out- rotate them like you are twisting a tight cap off a jar.

5. Let your hang down- move your shoulders back, away from your ears and back toward your hips.

6. To turn this into a resting pose, tighten up those quads and take the weight off your lower arms. (Come on, you can do this!)

7. Rotate those thighs inward and stick your backside high in the air! Let your heels sink into your mat.

Here’s the kicker: You need to keep the distance between your hands and feet the same distance apart as they are when you drop your backside down so your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. (This is called the Plank Pose.)

In other words, keep your feet back where they belong and don’t try to get away with moving them forward toward your hands. This is called "dirty rotten cheating" and if I don’t get to do it, neither do you- sorry, but I decided this must be a rule. I’m not real big on rules, but it’s yoga after all. It’s called a "discipline" for a reason- to keep folks like us from cheating at the positions.

However, it’s not cheating if it is a TIP, now is it? Here is a TIP for Downward Dog, if you’re having a little trouble.

Bend your knees so you come up onto the balls of your feet. Your belly will rest on your thighs (and it might just decide to take a little nap there, if it’s anything like mine.) Now, sink down unto your heels, keeping your backside up high. You can also try bending your arms out to the side, pulling your chest toward your thighs and then straightening back out.

Give Downward Facing Dog a little practice time. It’s easier than you think it is- and the stretch you get is just the thing you need after sitting at the computer all morning.

Have a great day- and we’ll see you back here soon!

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