Downward dog is probably the most used yoga pose in classes. It is often used as a transition between other poses and often its benefits are overlooked.
What are the benefits of Downward Dog?
First of all, it strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders. You are placing a lot of weight into your wrists and arms and also pushing up and rotating through your shoulders. Secondly, as this pose is an inversion you gain all the benefits of an inversion without having to perform anything too difficult. Inversions help to unblock sinuses and get mucus moving (great if you are blocked up). They also help blood flow through the body especially towards the head which both energizes and calms the brain. Thirdly, it stretches pretty much the whole body which should make you feel great!
The spine is elongated and the chest is opened. Practiced often, this can help to relieve back and neck pain. Becoming more aware of our bodies during a yoga session can also help us in everyday life. Instead of hunching over a desk, we become more likely to sit up straight and gain a better posture. As well as stretching the upper body most of us feel a huge stretch in the backs of our legs (in our hamstrings and calves). For me especially this feels amazing, great if you’ve just been for a run or a cycle.
How to Get Into This Pose
- Start on your hands and knees (so as you look like a table). The spine should be long and straight, your knees should be directly underneath your hip bones and your wrists underneath your shoulders.
- Move your hands forward roughly one-hands length.
- Curl your toes under, press into them and begin to lift your knees off the floor.
- Start to now straighten the legs, keep your hands and feet where they are but put your bottom up towards the sky.
- Your chest should be pushing back towards your knees and your heels towards the floor.
- If somebody took a picture of you now you would look an upside down ‘V’.
- Stay here, get comfortable and don’t forget to breathe!
Things to Remember
- Your heels don’t have to touch the floor.
- Your neck should be relaxed and hanging like a bowling ball between your arms.
- Your hips should be pushing back and upwards towards the sky.
- As you gaze back at your feet you should not see your heels (your legs should be slightly inwardly rotating).
- If you have any problems with your wrists and you can’t put weight into them try making a fist.
- If you are pregnant this pose is not advisable – you can try this pose leaning against a wall rather than on the floor (you will still get the same stretch but you will not be inverting)
Just have fun, it is about the journey, not the destination!