// Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog
I am. I am. I am. Being, I am being. Here I am being in twenty seventeen. More than ever my mind is on being, on that which is, rather than the what should be or what should not be. In the quiet of the now, I am finding great peace in resting in what already exist in me and around me. Paradoxically, I am more motivated than ever to become, to live into all of the other traits and truths that have existed in my spirit and in this world since the beginning of time that I have yet to discover.
The featured pose for this month is one of the most iconic poses in Yoga. People who have never practiced before can usually name this pose. It’s fame is for good reason, it’s dynamic, rejuvenating, and allows for a healthy pause in a flowing practice to just be.
Adho mukha svanasana, downward facing dog is an inversion, in which the heart is placed above the head. When inverted, we view in a new perspective. No longer stuck in the ways in which we normally think or do we can get clarity in the truth, in what is. This act can greatly relieve the tumultuous waves of stress and anxiety that can plague us when we stay too long in the head and spend little time in the heart. It is an opportunity for the heart to use logic as a tool to help us see what is already there, inside and around.
Down dog has a great many somatic benefits as it strengthens and stretches the whole body. Here are just a few benefits to name: opens the back of the legs, elongates the spine, strengthens and opens the chest and arms, stabilizes the muscles of the feet, improves circulation, builds strong bones, and develops core muscles. Be mindful that this is another one of those common yoga poses that looks like it is supposed to be easy, but is actually quite challenging, and if not done properly can induce more harm than good. Continue reading to learn the proper process of this pose.
Start on your hands and your knees. Wrist directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Spread your fingers and put pressure into your index fingers and your thumbs.
On your exhale, begin to lift your knees up and off of the mat. Keeping your knees bent and your heels lifted off of the mat, begin to lengthen through your spine. Keep a straight line from the tip of your tailbone to the crown of your head.
On an exhale, slowly begin to straighten your legs and lower your heels towards the ground. It is quite alright if your heels do not touch the ground, as you can see, mine do not. If you find that when you straighten your legs your back begins to round, keep your knees bent. Here begin to firm the outer thighs and rotate the inner thighs inward slightly, narrowing the front of the pelvis.
Begin to root into your index finger and your thumb by pressing down into the mat. Allow your shoulders to roll down and back along your spine. Keep your head in between your upper arms.
Use this position in a flow sequence, or on its own.
If you have a sensitivity in your wrist and it is painful to do down dog, here are a couple of options for you. Make your hands into fists and come into hands and knees with the palm side of the fists facing in toward the center. Press into a down dog following the rest of the directions above. Another option is to come into dolphin instead: down dog on your forearms instead of your palms. This is a bit more challenging for the hamstrings.
If you have really tight hamstrings and hips and you find it challenging to keep your back straight, bend your knees as much as you need to.
If at this point in your practice, down dog is entirely uncomfortable, another option is to come into puppy pose, or child’s pose.
If you are experiencing any of the following, refrain from doing down dog : diarrhea, late term pregnancy, high blood pressure, headaches.