Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward Dog is the most recognized and frequently used pose in yoga practice. It strengthens and stretches the whole body while stimulating blood circulation.
Downward Dog also calms the mind, so it can be used as a resting pose between flowing sequences.
1. Begin on a mat, on your hands and knees, as shown in the top photo. Keep your shoulders above your wrists and knees directly beneath your hips. Align your wrists parallel, to the short end of the mat. Spread your fingers wide and root down evenly through each finger pad and knuckle. Lengthen your spine and sides and press your shoulders away from your ears.
2. With a deep inhale, tug your toes under and slowly press your hips back and up as you exhale. Look down toward your toes, make sure they are still hips width apart and parallel. Keep your gaze at your feet and allow your head to hang freely so there is no tension at the neck (see the photo at bottom of page).
3. For new yoga practitioners and those who lack flexibility, start with bent knees and on your tippie toes, as shown in the center photo. Focus more on
the alignment of the upper body which forms a triangle, with your hips at the highest point.
4. Maintain the actions of the arms and hands and keep your spine lengthened and the upper back flat. Keep your upper arms alongside your ears. With each deep breath, press the inner thighs back and apart to stretch the hamstrings a little more.
Eventually you should be able to straighten both legs and bring the heels down to touch the ground.
Practice, practice and practice! Namaste.
Disclaimer: Do not begin any physical activity described in this column without prior approval from your health care professional.