Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward-facing dog, is perhaps the most iconic pose in Western yoga practices. Usually interspersed throughout multiple sequences, down dog is a versatile posture that stretches the hamstrings and creates length in the spine.
To come into down dog at the beginning of your practice, start on all fours. Walk the hands out a palm’s print in front of you, tuck your toes, and lift your hips up to the sky. Keep both knees relatively bent at first, release the shoulders down the back and sink the heart in the direction of the thighs while simultaneously lengthening the tailbone away from the pelvis. Feel each finger pad rooting into the mat and keep the index fingers either parallel or slightly turned out. Your heels do not need to sink all the way down to the mat in order for you to obtain the benefits of this pose.
Despite the fact that down dog can be considered a resting posture, it still requires effort and strength. If you are new to down dog, try placing blocks underneath your hands to bring the floor closer to you. This pose can provide a stretch for an achy back if you are on your feet all day and feel compression in your spine, and it is a great go-to if you only have a few minutes to fit in a home practice. It’s also an inversion, which means it can help to filter your blood and lymphatic system, giving your immune system a boost.
Keep in mind that, just like an actual dog intuitively stretching out its spine after a long nap, your version of down dog may look different from anyone else’s. Snap a picture of yourself doing your downward facing down and send it to Emily@ashevillecommunityyoga.com and we will post it on social media!