If you are into yoga then it is likely that you have heard about the downward facing dog pose many times over the years. However, you should keep in mind that just because this pose is famously linked to yoga, it does not mean it is easy to do.
When you are new to this pose, you might make some technical mistakes and fail to gain the benefits. Like leaning too far forward or . It can act as either an intermediary pose, or a resting one.
The downward facing dog is one of the most basic yoga poses. It is also one of the best for strengthening and stretching the body, improving balance and helping with posture. But where did this pose come from?
Thousands of years ago Indian and Chinese culture adopted a method to show gratitude and greet guests, the downward facing dog. after a while, it inspired the monks into adopting it as a way to come closer to earth. Since then and up till now, the downward facing dog has been implemented as one of the most basic, yet popular, yoga poses.
The benefits for this pose will be discussed in depth, as you read on further in this article. The downward facing dog, also known as downward dog, stretches out the hamstring and calf muscles. Your hamstring muscles are the located behind your thighs, and helps the knee joint to rotate and flex.
Your calf muscles, on the other hand, helps in facilitating for you to jump, walk, and stand on your toes. They are situated just below the knee joint, facing the back of your leg. This pose also aids you in strengthening your external oblique muscles, present on the side of your abdomen.
Downward dog further helps in alleviating the usual strain placed on your spine and increases blood flow to your brain. It does this through “mild inversion” or in other words by acting opposite of gravity forces placed on the spine, and inversion therapy was shown to be helpful in more than one health condition.
Step by step instructions
- Place both of your hands and knees onto the yoga mat. Your hands need to be a bit in front of your shoulders and your knees to be right under your hips.
- Then spread out your palms, and root them onto your mat and curl your toes under.
- Take a breath, and as you exhale lift your knees away from the floor, keep them slightly bent while also lifting your heels off the floor.
- Push out your tailbone, away from your pelvis, towards the ceiling and keep a slight bend in your knees as you will feel your legs straighten as you do this.
- Take a breath and exhale, and on exhalation push back the top of your thighs and push your heels towards the floor. Be careful of locking your knees.
- Remember to let your head drop and do not strain your neck and make sure the placement of your hands and knees are correct.
- You can stretch out your legs by bending one knee and push the heel of the other towards the floor, and alternate.
- To get out of the downward dog, bring your knees to the floor, sit back on the tops of your feet and finally raise the rest of your body into a seated position.
I have seen many people who have been performing the pose for many years, and they are still doing it incorrectly.
Releasing your heels:
When you are performing downward facing dog pose, or any other standing posture, it is important to make sure to keep your feet flat on the floor, and not to lift your heels.
This is a common mistake by new yoga practitioners, who are afraid to let their heels touch the floor. Instead, they lift their entire body weight off of their heels, which is okay if you are balancing on one foot, but in downward facing dog pose, it is important to release your heels.
This will prevent you from having to strain so much to balance, and will enable you to focus on the stretch more than on lifting your entire body weight off of your heels.
The distance between the feet can be an issue as well. Students frequently set them too wide, near the mat’s edges, or too narrow, touching one another. Also, your toes should be pointing in the direction of the mat’s front.
It’s common for new students, especially those who have had dance training, to want to turn their feet out. Your feet ought to be shoulder-width apart, with approximately 6 inches between them, depending on your height of course. You’ll have a good foundation for this pose if you set up your feet correctly, release your heels, and keep your buttocks high.
If the butt placement is wrong, then all you need to do fix it is bending your knees, just for a second, then place the balls of your feet on the floor an push your hips to the ceiling and you will find you are doing it correctly.
Do you need a change in the position?
If your hamstrings are extremely tight, you may not be able to hold your buttocks high while also straightening your legs. If that’s the case, a minor bend in your knees is acceptable. With regular practice of various positions, your hamstrings will lengthen over time.
If you would like to do a restorative version of the pose, lay a yoga block beneath your head. You can also put a block under your hands or a folded towel under your wrists for added comfort.
Do you want to take on a challenge?
By elevating your heels off the floor and putting your weight on the balls of your feet, you can deepen the pose. Return your heels to the floor after drawing in your pelvis.
Precautions to consider
If you have a wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you’re in your last trimester of pregnancy, this posture isn’t for you.
If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, a slipped disc in your spine, or even vertigo, you should avoid it.