It’s known by many names—Downward Facing Dog, Down Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana—whatever you want to call it, invigorate your body and mind with this classic yoga pose! If you have stiff shoulders and tight hamstrings, this is the pose for you. Stressed out? Discover how Down Dog pose can calm the heart and free the mind of anxiety and mental fatigue.
Why you need to be doing Down Dog
Why do dogs do this stretch every time when they get up from a long nap? Our furry friends are releasing the myofascial tension that has pulled their bodies into a curled up ball as they slept. They are stretching open their shoulders and hips to create space in their spine, freeing up the limbs to move with ease. Just like a dog’s long nap, sitting for hours at a time compresses our spine and stiffens our shoulders and hips!
- Lengthens the hamstrings, and calves
- Calms the brain and gently stimulates the nerves
- Reduces stiffness in the shoulder blades and arthritis in the shoulder joints
- Decompresses the spine
- Tones the abdominal organs and lifts sagging abdominal wall
- Lowers heart rate (Safe to do if you have high blood pressure!)
- Relieves pain in the heels and softens calcaneal spurs
- Helps to prevent hot flashes during menopause
How to Perform Down Dog
Lie on the floor on the stomach, face downwards. The feet should be kept one foot apart. Rest the palms by the side of the chest, the fingers straight and pointing in the direction of the head.
Exhale and raise the trunk from the floor. Straighten the arms, and release the head down. Press the mounds of the index finger and thumb as the upper arms roll out. Keep the elbows straight.
With bent knees, lift the heels and sit bones high and then stretch the knees straight. Keep the legs stiff and do not bend the knees but press the heels down. The heels and soles of the feet should rest completely on the floor, while the feet should be parallel to each other, the toes pointing straight ahead.
Stay in the pose for about a minute with deep breathing. Then with and exhalation lift the head off the floor, stretch the trunk forward and lower the body gently to the floor and relax.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Respect your body’s limits and do not move into pain.
Put ease into the pose by moving slowly, mindfully and maintaining softness in your face.
Liz Montagna MPT, RYT
Liz teaches in the Iyengar Yoga tradition.
Liz Montagna is the founder of Yoga Physical Therapy in Orange County. For the past 16 years, she has been integrating her extensive knowledge and experience in the field of physical therapy with the therapeutic benefits of Iyengar Yoga to offer a more comprehensive and holistic approach to total patient care. As our resident Yoga instructor, Liz uses various forms of biofeedback and facilitation techniques to assist her students in gaining greater spacial awareness, motor control and muscular balance.
Click here to learn more about Liz and the other ABC Instructors.