Downward Facing Dog is practically the definition of yoga. This basic pose is one of the first you'll learn in a class, and also the one you'll do most often. If you're new to yoga, with time, Down Dog may become your favorite pose as your body grows stronger and more limber. But if this pose causes you pain, here are some ways to get relief.
Tight Hamstrings and Calves:
If you're a runner, sit at a desk all day, or were born with extremely tight leg muscles, Down Dog is going to hurt the backs of your legs. Do not power through the pain and struggle to lower your heels to the floor. Instead, keep your heels lifted and focus on pressing the backs of your knees toward the wall behind you. Keep your toes planted and alternately bend your knees pressing one heel into your mat at a time, as if you're walking in place like a mime. With practice, Downward Dog will help to increase your hamstring and calf flexibility, which will alleviate the pain in your legs.
To learn how to alleviate lower back or wrist pain during Down Dog, keep reading!
Aching Lower Back:
Straightening your legs puts tension on your lower back, so bend your knees slightly. Engage your abs by drawing your navel toward your spine — strengthening your abdominal muscles will support your lower back. If your low back is making an upside down curved "U" shape, try to turn it into a "V" by bending your knees more and pressing your belly toward your thighs, almost like you're coming into a forward bend. Take breaks from Down Dog as you need and stretch your lower back in Child's Pose.
Believe it or not, tight hamstrings can also contribute to wrist pain. If you're struggling to straighten your legs, your body weight may unknowingly shift forward into your hands to relieve pain in your hammys and calves. If this is the case, bend your knees slightly so you're able to press your hips away from your hands. Also make sure your fingers are spread as wide as possible, creating a straight line between your elbows, forearms, and middle fingers. Flattening your palm can create unnecessary pressure, so slightly cup the floor by pressing into your fingertips and the palms of your hands. If that doesn't help, use a foam wedge to raise the heels of your palms slightly, or grip two regular blocks under your palms. If none of these suggestions offer relief, lower onto your forearms and do Quarter Dog with palms flat or hands interlaced.