Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) Spring has sprung, yogis! And for that reason, we are springing into action with our Ambitious Yoga Pose for the month of May. Balasana is nice and all, but it’s time to really get things moving with one of the all-time greatest yoga poses and one you’ll never take a yoga class without: Adho Mukha Svanasana, most commonly known as Downward-Facing Dog – that’s Downward Dog to all you yoga faithfuls out there. Why do people love it? Because it literally does it all – it calms the mind, strengthens and stretches the arms, legs and spine, energizes the body and turns your perspective (literally!) upside down. Let’s get started ….
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)
1. Without moving the hands or knees, transition from Balasana to all fours (Table) position. Lucky for you, Balasana is the best pose to transition into Downward Dog from. Why? Because your hands and knees are already the perfect distance apart. You shouldn’t have to move a thing! But just in case – hands should be shoulder-width distance apart and slightly ahead of your shoulders and legs are hips-width distance apart.
2. From Table, on your next exhale curl your toes under and press your hands and feet into the floor as you lift your hips up and back. Your body should know form a triangle position with your sit bones (the pointy bones at the base of your bum) as the highest point.
3. Press your hands actively into the floor through all five fingers to straighten your arms completely and continue that length through the base of your spine. Imagine you are pressing the floor away from you. If your shoulders feel tight, feel free to take the hands a little wider apart and consider angling your fingertips toward the corners of your mat to create more space in the shoulders.
4. Similarly, if your legs feel tight, step them a little wider apart to create a little more space in the hamstring and calves. Because we are still early in the sequence, feel free to keep a bend in the knees to release any tension in the legs and allow you to balance the weight more evenly between the hands and the feet. For most people – especially those who are newer to yoga -- Downward Dog is extremely challenging, because tight hamstrings make it difficult to shift the weight into the legs, meaning that the majority of the weight must be carried by the upper body. Bending the knees helps reduce that imbalance.
5. Allow your head and neck to completely relax. Your gaze should be between the shins.
6. Now let’s open up through the hamstrings and calves by “Walking the Dog” – bending one knee as you straighten the other one and continuing to peddle the feet back and forth. Continue here for a few breaths.
7. Now that we are in the basic position, let’s make a few small adjustments to improve the pose.
a. Upper Body: Slightly rotate the biceps toward your ears (“like they want to tell your ears a secret!”) as your firm your shoulder blades against your back and draw them down your back toward your tailbone.
b. Hips: Lift the hips up and back and reach your sit bones to the place where the wall and ceiling meet.
c. Lower Body: Now that you are a bit more warmed up, press the thighs toward the wall behind you and reach your heels down toward the ground, straightening your legs without locking the knees. Note: the heels do not have to touch the ground. Everybody (and every body) is different!
8. Practice holding the pose for different lengths of time. If you are newer to the pose, 20 seconds might be enough. If you are more experienced, try holding for 1-3 minutes. Whatever amount of time you choose, just breathe and enjoy!