Downward Dog is the quintessential yoga pose. It’s fantastic for stretching the backs of the legs and building strength in wrists, shoulders and glutes. It can also help to alleviate lower back pain, when practiced with proper form. Practicing Puppy pose can help you to feel the correct position for your spine and shoulders before lifting your hips up.
DOWNWARD DOG BENEFITS
- Stretches the ankles, calves, hamstrings, spine, chest and shoulders.
- Strengthens the feet, legs, hips, glutes, back, shoulders, arms, wrists and hands.
- Decompresses the spine—creating space between the vertebrae.
- Improves posture.
- Can help to alleviate lower back and shoulder pain.
From all fours, walk your hands forward.
Tuck your toes and lift your hips up. Keeping your knees bent, drop your chest back towards your thighs.
Spread your fingers wide and press your palms evenly into the mat—index fingers point straight ahead. Try to straighten your elbows and allow your head to hang naturally between your arms. Rotate your upper arms outwards to feel a broadening across your upper back. Lift the weight up out of your wrists by drawing your shoulders up and back. Check that both knees point straight ahead and do not fall in towards each other. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart—ankles point straight back.
The aim of this pose is to lengthen your spine, so you can bend your knees as much as you need to, to prevent rounding the lower back. When and if you are ready, you can gently press your heels back down towards the mat.
Hold the pose for 5 slow breaths, in and out through your nose.
MODIFICATION FOR TIGHT SHOULDERS
- You can position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and rotate your palms outward.
HIP-OPENING VARIATION: Downward Dog Split
- From Downward Dog. Inhale, sweep your left leg up to the sky. Exhale, bend your left knee and let your left foot drop back behind you. You can bend your supporting leg as much as you need to.
- Avoid Downward Dog if you have a wrist, shoulder, ankle or foot injury.