Downward-Facing Dog

Downward –Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana

In Suza Francina’s book The New Yoga For People Over 50, she describes Downward-facing Dog with the following introduction; “The Downward-Facing Dog Pose is named for the way dogs instinctively stretch their bodies.  When practiced with the hands on the floor, the shape of the pose resembles a dog stretching, with the arms and hands stretched out like a dog’s forepaws, the shoulders, spine and chest stretching and the pelvis and tailbone high, stretching back away from the hands.  When dogs stretch they do so with great enjoyment-with all their heart and soul.   Naturally, we humans should stretch in a similar way.”

What a great description.  I have always considered Downward-Facing Dog as the cure-all for all ills.  If I had to choose only one pose to do every day it would be this pose.   As a weight-bearing pose, it will strengthen your upper body.  As a stretch, it lengthens the spine, chest wall, legs, abdomen, and arms.  As an inversion, the diaphragm moves toward the head allowing for deep exhaling while increasing the blood flow to the head.

Yoga students of all ages and experience can enjoy the benefits of Downward- Facing Dog with hands on a chair or the floor.

Downward-Facing Dog with a chair.

Place a sturdy chair against a wall.  Place your hands shoulder –width apart on the front edge of the chair seat.  With hands on the chair step back until you are arm’s-length away with your heels slightly behind your hips, feet hip-width apart.

  1. Alternate pressing your heels firmly down and the rising up on your toes.
  2. While pressing your hands into the chair press your sit bones back as far as possible.
  3. Alternate bending the right knee and pressing the left heel into the floor with bending the left knee and pressing the right heel into the floor.

Hold each of the above variations 3-5 breaths and repeat the sequence as tolerated.

Downward=Facing Dog

Start in hands and knee position with knees below hips and hands below shoulders.  Spread fingers wide.  Tuck the toes under and raise the head and trunk, bend the legs to raise the hips.  Straighten the arms.  Straighten the legs, lift the hips higher, and take the head and trunk down.  Raise the shoulder and move the shoulder blades into the back and ribs and up.  Press up with the sit bones.   Without losing the height of the hips, stretch the heels down.   Move the thighs and shins back to bring the weight onto the backs of the legs and the heels.  Relax the head and neck

Stay in position for 3-5 breaths.  On exhale come down. Rest and repeat.

Keep the weight even on both hands and feet.

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