Downward dog – a transitional pose, a resting pose and a strength builder. It is one of the most recognised poses in the west, getting its name from the way a dog naturally stretches their entire body. It’s an incredibly energising and rejuvenating asana for the whole body. It stretches across your arches, calves, hamstrings, shoulders, hands, and neck. Considered a mild inversion, it can relieve you from symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and fatigue. It can also assist in calming and balancing the nervous system, improve focus, memory and concentration due to the increase in blood flow to the brain.
Downward dog can look far easier than it is and for most, particularly at the start of their yoga journeys, find it much more of a strength builder than a resting pose. It takes a lot of strength to correctly support your shoulders and therefore you must always listen to your body and work to your own range of abilities and limits.
Begin on your hands and knees, your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your fingers are spread wide, your hands are pressing firmly through your palms and knuckles and your middle fingers pointing directly to the top edge of the mat.
Stretch your elbows, relax your upper back and make sure that you are sat out of your shoulders. You can imagine your shoulder blades drawing down your back.
Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed across your hands. Inhale.
Exhale. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Straighten your arms. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling and draw your sit bones towards the wall behind you. (Having your sit bones high is very important in this asana)
Slowly straighten your legs, pushing your heels towards the floor. Make sure that you keep a soft bend at the knee.You should now be in the shape of an ‘A’. You should feel your hips and thighs feeling as though they are being pulled backwards
Keep pressing through the floor, this will allow you to lift through your pelvis. Lengthen your spine and lift your sit bones up towards the ceiling. Keep pressing down equally through your heels and palms of your hands.
Press your index fingers into the floor to activate your arm muscles. Lift from the inner muscles right to the top of your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and your ribs down towards your tailbone. Keep open and broad across your collarbones.
Rotate your arms externally so that your elbow crease is facing your thumbs.
Engage your quadriceps, pulling up from your knees, rotating your thighs inwards, and continuing to lift up your sit bones high and sinking your heels to the floor.
Pull your chest in towards your thighs, continue to press the matt away from you stretching, lengthening and decompressing your spine. Make sure that the weight is equal between hands and feet.
Your ears should be aligned with your upper arms. Your head relaxed but not dangling down. Keep your gaze between your legs or looking towards your navel.
Hold and breathe.
To release, exhale whilst bending knees and coming back to hands and knees.
If you feel the need to, push back into child’s pose for a few breathes.