At some point in my yoga practice I assumed I had mastered Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).
The great thing about yoga is that we keep practicing and learning and deepening.
When my teacher Richard starting working with me on my Downward Facing Dog in December 2013 he helped me to stop pushing too deep into the pose in an unhealthy way in my upper body. He also helped me to feel more length in my spine.
Richard took the middle photo of me after some adjustments were made in class one evening. The pose started to feel differently in my body.
The bottom photo shows me pushing too far in my arms, pressing my chest toward the floor and my head is hanging. My back is rounded and not as long as it could be.
The top photo I have a long spine, length and space in my back.
I’ve been teaching yoga a little more than a year now. I tell my students that I want them to have a nice long Dog.
It is not necessary to get your heels to the mat, especially if it means you shorten your Dog to get your heels on the mat.
In fact, with a nice long Dog most people won’t get their heels to the mat. I’ve been scouring the Internets to find this fact and I can’t seem to find it. But my teacher Baxter tells his students that only about 25% of people can get their heels to the mat in Downward Facing Dog. It has to do with a tight Achilles tendon.
According to an article on Yoga Journal, … Downward Dog uses the strength of your arms and legs to fully and evenly stretch your spine. It stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves as it strengthens your quadriceps and ankles. It opens your chest and shoulders and tones your arms and abdominals. It even tones your hands and feet, preparing you for standing poses and arm balances.
The above linked article, Flex your strength in Down Dog, does a really great job of explaining the pose, what you will be working on depending on what is going on in your body and how to work toward the full pose.
About a year ago Richard and Baxter were named by Yoganonymous as two of the top 10 kickass yoga teachers in the Bay Area. (Frankly, I feel that the list isn’t complete without Vickie listed.) I am a good yoga teacher because of my yoga teachers who taught me as a student and they also taught me how to be a teacher, with a few others in the mix.
One of the many benefits of Downward Facing Dog is that it pretty much works the whole body.
Other benefits (listed on Yoga Journal) are that the pose helps to calm the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression; energizes the body; stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands; strengthens the arms and legs; helps relieve the symptoms of menopause; relieves menstrual discomfort when does with head supported; helps prevent osteoporosis; improves digestion; relieves headache, insomnia, back pain and fatigue; therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica and sinusitis.
Wow, all of that in one pose!
I do have a regular home yoga practice. I know for many that is difficult to fit in your day. If you only have a few minutes, you can do Adho Mukha Svanasana. Try it for 10-20 breaths. Slowly work to hold it a little longer each time you practice. A yoga mat is great. But if you don’t have one you can still practice this pose.
My sequence each week includes practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana at least a couple of times.
And I will continue to work to have a nice long Dog and how the pose feels throughout my body.