Downward dog is one of, if not the most commonly practiced asana practiced in yoga. Quite often we use it as a transition movement, flowing through the posture during a vinyasa practice and we don’t actually take the time to take in all of its wonder and how it nourishes our body.
Downward dog is far more than just a transition pose and it holds so many benefits for us, nurturing, supporting and strengthening our body.
1. Stretches the back of legs.
Many of us walk around with very tight hamstring and calf muscles. If we don’t stretch them out properly and often then problems can arise further up the body with ailments such as back, neck and shoulder pain. It also opens up and stretches your lower back and shoulders, creating space between your vertebrae.
2. Brings awareness to the breath and calms the body.
This is a great posture to come back to, to focus on the inhale and exhale of your breath. Making it as long, deep and smooth as you can will really calm the body and mind.
3. Turns your awareness inwards
Downward dog is one of the simpler inversions in yoga, it really allows you to bring your focus and attention to what is going on in your body. While in this posture, think about how your body if feeling, are there any areas that need attention? Breathe into those spaces that are feeling like they need some extra TLC.
4. Lengthens your spine.
You get all of the benefits of a spine inversion but without having to go completely upside down. In this posture, you will be reversing where the pressure usually falls on your spine which helps to gently re-align the vertebra. Due to the position of your hands and feet, there’s very little room for your spine not to be elongated – meaning it’s a simple spine lengthener for everyone!
5. Strengthens your arms, shoulders and chest.
In order to strengthen your arms you need to ensure that you are pressing your hands into the mat, roll your biceps outwards and you will feel great engagement through your whole arm rather than just dumping the weight into your shoulders and chest – which doesn’t do much other than feel a little painful after a while. This is also a great posture for strengthening and opening your chest muscles. So many of us have very tight and weak chest muscles as we sit hunched over out computers, which over stretches around our shoulder blades and shortens our chest. Opening and stretching the chest through downward dog will help to eliminate any pain or pressure around the shoulders and upper back.