Although it may not always feel like it, Adho Mukha Svanasana is a resting pose. Downward Facing Dog enables us to reconnect to our breath by creating a comma, a pause in the middle of our Vinyasa Flow practice. The position of the head prevents us from looking around at other students, drawing attention inwards and allowing us to refocus.
Featuring heavily in Vinyasa Flow yoga classes, Downward Facing Dog is a foundation pose that requires proper set up.
Starting from the foundation, which in this case is the hands and feet:
1. Hands connect with the mat, shoulder distance apart, fingers spread wide, middle fingers pointing forwards, pressing firmly down through the knuckle of each finger and particularly with the thumb and first finger.
2. Feet are hip distance apart, heels reaching towards the floor.
3. Press out of the shoulders whilst drawing the upper arm bones into the shoulder sockets.
4. Draw the shoulder blades down the back away from the ears.
5. Keeping elbows extended without hyperextension, rotate the upper arms outwards (external rotation) so that the inner elbows start to turn towards the front. Think of hugging the armpits and elbows towards each other. Forearms rotate inwards. These are subtle movements so don't worry if they don't come straight away.
6. Knees can be bent, particularly for the first few Downward Facing Dogs of class or if our hamstrings feel tight.
7. Press the chest towards the thighs, drawing naval to spine.
8. Lift hips skywards, bending the knees if it helps create more space to lift the hips higher.
9. Focus on extending the spine first - the hamstring stretch is secondary.
10. Gaze (drishti) is between your feet. Traditionally the drishti is towards the naval, but this can be a little aggressive on the neck.
- Cultivates strength in the arms and shoulders
- Calms the mind and brings focus inwards, allowing connection back to the breath
- Allows the back of the body to lengthen, elongating the hamstrings and spine
- Opens the chest and shoulders