Improve your health with this simple yoga pose
By Tracy Dye
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class — or even if you haven’t — you’re likely familiar with Downward Facing Dog. The asana is used frequently in yoga classes, regardless of the type. Although it is traditionally thought of as a resting pose, Downward Dog offers much more than relaxation:
- Greater strength
- Increased flexibility
- Stress relief
- Improved circulation
- Tension release
When performed correctly, Downward Dog can be more challenging than it appears for yoga novices. Below are steps to help you achieve this posture easily and accurately.
Step 1: Begin in a tabletop position
Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly beneath the shoulders and your knees directly beneath the hips. The tops of your feet should be flat against the ground.
If you haven’t already, bring awareness to the spine and engage your core. Imagine that your core is the trunk of a tree, keeping your spine aligned in one strong, straight piece. Just as with a regular tabletop, your back should be a straight slate and the “legs” of your table should be strong and grounded beneath the torso.
Step 2: Spread your fingers wide
Move your focus to the hands. Press all four corners of your palms into the ground and spread your fingers wide. Imagine your hands are two bright suns.
Step 3: Begin your inversion
Curl your toes and allow your knees to lift from the floor. With a strong core and engagement of the arms and sit bones, allow your pelvis to reach toward the ceiling as if being drawn up by an invisible thread. At the same time, press your sit bones toward the wall behind you.
Without locking your knees, straighten your legs in order to create an “A” shape with your body. You can also gently pedal your feet in order to warm up the muscles and allow for deeper stretching. As you acclimate to the posture, your heels will eventually reach the floor. For yoga novices, this may take some practice.
Never force the heels down to the ground or attempt to push to a point that exceeds your personal threshold.
Step 4: Engage your upper body
With your palms planted firmly into the ground, rotate your shoulders away from the ears and use this energy to draw your shoulder blades back toward your upper rib cage. Relax the head and allow the neck to be long as you sink back further. Your head should gently melt toward your heart and your heart will draw closer toward the toes.
Step 5: Come to stillness
As you come fully into the inversion, you should continue to inhale and exhale deeply. If you feel any discomfort, you can continue to gently pedal the feet and/or shake the head “yes” and “no” to relieve strain in the neck and shoulders.
Breath deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth at least five times before returning to tabletop position.
Downward Dog is only one of the many beneficial asanas in a yoga practice. You can discover more about this holistic modality by signing up for a yoga class at Haven on the Lake, or calling 410-715-3020 for more information.