Dial Up Your Downward Dog
If you're like many new yogis, or like many practiced yogis, your downward facing dog could probably use a tune up. Since it is one of the foundation postures of many yoga classes, getting it right can make a big difference to your workout.
Not to mention, this posture has some serious benefits like strengthening the shoulders, back, core, and legs while energizing the mind and body (thanks to the inversion). It's totally something to bark about.
Now let's dig in:
- Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and hips directly above knees.
- Press firmly into your palms and evenly distribute your weight through the four points of the palm. From the knuckle beneath the index finger, to the one beneath the pinky, down to the base of your wrist and across to the base of your thumb. Your whole hand should be active.
- Tuck your toes and send your hips up and back with bent knees and heels in the air. This is a working position so you can refine your base before coming into the full expression of the pose.
- Take your attention to you arms and externally rotate your triceps, or upper arms. This will keep your shoulders down away from your ears. This will create space for your neck to fully extend rather than crunching up (creating more tension which is why you're in this position in the first place, am I right!?).
- Bring your awareness to your shoulder blades and take them down towards your tailbone. Broaden your back to create space between the shoulder blades and stretch through the upper back and rhomboids.
- Engage your core by taking your belly button in toward your spine. A strong core will support your back in this pose.
- With your knees bent, take your tailbone high into the sky. Since downward dog is about creating length in the spine first, and then the hamstrings, it's actually more beneficial to do this pose with bent knees and a straight back than with straight legs and a curved back. The straight legs will come with time.
- Rotate your inner thighs toward the sky to further enable your tail bones to go up and back.
- Now, if it is comfortable to do so, begin to send the heels to the floor and work to straighten your legs. Be mindful of your hamstrings and let them open slowly. Don’t push anything, go slow.
- Take a deep breath in, smile, and soak up the benefits. Hold the pose for five slow breaths.
Woof! Now, it wasn't that ruff was it?