Have you ever heard an instructor say, “...and rest in Downward Facing Dog,” and you were like WTF do you mean rest? I don’t blame you. That was my reaction for many, many years. Despite the fact that it pops up in 99% of yoga classes for 27% of each class* it is a damn hard pose. If you’re doing Down Dog (adho mukha svanasana) incorrectly, it won’t necessarily injure you (unlike Chaturanga) but it won’t be a pleasant experience.
When I finally started doing Downward Facing Dog correctly - and it took an embarrassingly long time - it was a complete hallelujah come to Jesus moment. The pose is so juicy! It stretches out you like nothing else! It opens up spots you didn’t know needed opening! It helps with hangovers!
Here’s how to get down with Down Dog (ideally while listening to this song):
- Press the pads of your thumb and index finger into the mat. A lot of strength comes from here.
- Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Try this: in Down Dog, roll your shoulders towards your ears and then down your back. This might cause your inner elbows to face a little bit forward - totally fine!
- Let your head and neck be completely relaxed. Bring your gaze to your belly button.
- Pretend there is an invisible string pulling your tailbone to the ceiling. Start feeling the space between each vertebra of the spine.
- Keep your knees soft, even with a slight bend.
- Check your alignment - extend forward into a Plank pose. Your hands should be right under your shoulders, and you should not have to move your hands and feet at all between Down Dog and Plank. If you do, readjust the distance between your hands and feet until you can move back and forth between Plank and Down Dog without moving your hands or feet.
- PRO TIP #1: Your feet don’t have to touch the floor! Someday they might, but don’t sweat it.
- PRO TIP #2: Move around in this pose! Downward Facing Dog can be playful and dynamic. Look under each arm, pedal your feet up and down, and shift your hips back and forth. If you’re feeling especially feisty, try to get your stomach to touch your thighs for a bit.
As one of my favorite teachers says, “Have fun - it’s just yoga!”
*statistics might not be scientifically accurate.