Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana) is what some might call a “classic” yoga pose. Its benefits include elongating or stretching the spine (and releasing tension in the spine as a result), stretching the hamstrings, calf muscles, achilles heel, arches and hands. Downward dog also builds strength in the shoulders, arm muscles, wrists and back. Other benefits may include relieving low back pain, increasing circulation to the brain, which can rejuvenate the body and mind, and because it is a mild inversion, it can help calm the nervous system and relieve stress, which could help with insomnia and anxiety.
Cautions: High blood pressure, carpal tunnel or arthritis in the wrists or hands, detached retina or weak eye capillaries, shoulder injuries/sensitivities, late-term pregnancy, eye or inner-ear infection.
Modifications: You can elevate the hands with blocks or by using a chair on a yoga mat, the seat facing toward you, with your hands gripping each side of the seat of the chair, your feet are about hip-width apart on the mat. You would then press your hips and tailbone back so you get a nice long stretch through the spine, lower back and hamstrings.
You can also roll the top part of your mat up and place the palms of your hands on the rolled edge for added lift and not as deep of a stretch on your hands and wrists.
1: Start on hands and knees with hands either under the shoulders or slightly forward of the shoulders, fingers spread out, with index fingers pouting toward the top of the mat. Knees are under the hips with toes tucked under.
2. Exhale. Then inhale as you lift your knees off the mat and your hips and tailbone toward the ceiling, but keeping your knees slightly bent to start. Here you can bicycle the knees a bit, bending one at a time to wake up and stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings.
3. When you feel warmed up, gently press into your hands, as though trying to press away from the floor, and press your tailbone back toward the wall behind you and feel the heels gently pressing down toward the floor. Don’t worry if the heels do not touch the floor, you just want to feel a nice easy stretch through the spine and straightened legs and heels. (note: you should keep a slight softness in the elbows and knees)
4. Widen the shoulder blades and feel them reach toward the tailbone. Try to keep your neck lengthened with the head in line with the arms, though be mindful you are not straining the neck. It should be relaxed.
5. Try to keep an even weight between the hands and feet and keep breathing deeply in and out, feeling the breath going down the back of the lungs, expanding the ribcage.
6. Stay in for a few breaths, trying to relax into the pose and focus on lengthening the spine. When ready, you can come out by lowering the knees back down to the floor into table position and rest in child’s pose if that feels good.
Be well ❤