Type of pose: Standing, Mild Inversion, Resting
Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the whole body. Can help relieve back pain.
Downward facing dog is done many times during most yoga classes. It is a transitional pose, a resting pose and a great strengthener in its own right. It may be the first yoga pose you encounter as you begin a yoga practice.
1. Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.
2. Curl the toes under and push back raising the hips and straightening the legs.
3. Spread the fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.
4. Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones.
5. Let the head hang, move the shoulder blades away from the ears towards the hips.
6. Engage the quadriceps strongly to take the weight off the arms, making this a resting pose.
7. Rotate the thighs inward, keep the tail high and sink your heels towards the floor.
8. Check that the distance between your hands and feet is correct by coming forward to a plank position. The distance between the hands and feet should be the same in these two poses. Do not step the feet toward the hands in Down Dog in order the get the heels to the floor. This will happen eventually as the muscles lengthen.
Beginners: Try bending your knees, coming up onto the balls of your feet, bringing the belly to rest on the thighs and the sit bones up high. Then sink your heels, straightening the legs keeping the high upward rotation of the sit bones. Also try bending the arms slightly out to the side, drawing the chest towards the thighs. Then restraighten the arms.
Advanced: If you are very flexible, try not to let the rib cage sink towards the floor creating a sinking spine. Draw the ribs in to maintain a flat back. Try holding the pose for five minutes, placing a block under your head for support.