Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common poses you'll find in a yoga class, but if you're bored with the basic version with both hands and feet on the mat, try these variations. You can add them in when you're doing Down Dog in your next yoga class, or breathe through all seven in a row when doing yoga at home. Aside from adding a little fun to your practice, throwing these poses into your sequence will also help to strengthen your arms, core, butt, and legs more effectively.
If your heels aren't planted firmly on the mat when in Down Dog, you're not alone. This pose may look relaxing, but it requires a great deal of hamstring, calf, and lower-back flexibility. Practice these four poses to help open the backs of your legs in order to comfortably lower your heels.
In order to get both heels to lower in Down Dog, it helps to practice lowering one at a time by working on Three-Legged Dog. This pose will target stretching each leg's hamstring and calf individually. Bend your bottom knee if you need to get the heel to lower, and then slowly work on straightening that leg as your flexibility increases.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
To increase flexibility in the hamstrings, calves, and lower back, work on this intense version of Wide-Legged Forward Bend. Focus on shifting your weight forward into your toes to increase the stretch in the back of the lower legs.
See two more poses to help you with Down Dog after the break!
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Ask anyone with at least a little knowledge of yoga to name a few postures, and Downward Dog will likely be some of the first, if not the only, words out of their mouth, at least here in America. However, in India, the birthplace of yoga the pose isn't emphasized quite as much, says yoga teacher and life coach Sophie Herbert. "Here in the U.S., Downward Dog is the anchoring posture of many practices," says Herbert, who received her training and yoga certification in India but now teaches in Brooklyn.
Perhaps it's because the pose is so good for many of the things that plague our society today: fatigue, back pain and stiffness from sitting all day, Herbert adds. In fact, Downward Dog has lots of health benefits — and whether you're an everyday yogi or not, this pose alone is worth adding to your regular fitness routine.
- It builds bone density. Postures like Downward Dog (as well as more difficult arm balances) that place weight on the arms and shoulders are great for building upper body strength and preserving bone density, says Herbert — especially important for women as we age and become more at risk for osteoporosis.
- It wakes you up. Herbert cites B.S.K. Iyengar, the 94-year-old founder of Iyengar yoga, who says that Downward Dog is one of the best poses you can do when you're fatigued. "He recommends at least a minute in the pose," she says, "to bring back lost energy for runners after a hard race." It works equally well, she adds, for those of us who are just tired from a long day at the office, too.
- It eliminates stiffness and back pain. "I find it's good for people who get pain in their shoulders and upper back," says Herbert. "Practicing it with proper alignment can make your upper back more flexible and less likely to store so much tension."
From your first class to your 100th, Downward Facing Dog is probably the pose you do most often. That's why it's important to do the pose correctly; not only to avoid injury, but to also make it as comfortable and effective as possible. Here are four don'ts when it comes to Down Dogging.
- Tense shoulders: It doesn't look like it, but this pose is all about upper-body strength. If your arms and shoulders are weak, you might compensate by scrunching your shoulders up to your ears. This is a big no-no, as it can cause neck strain, shoulder pain, and headaches. Be sure to actively draw your shoulder blades down your back, creating space in your neck. If you find your shoulders tensing up, it probably means you need to take a break. Bend your knees and rest in Child's Pose, and rise back into Down Dog when you're ready. As you continue your practice, upper-body strength will quickly increase, making it easier to hold Down Dog with correct technique.
Keep reading to find out other mistakes you're making in Downward Dog pose.
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!
If taking yoga is one of your goals, let me introduce you to Downward Facing Dog. It's probably the most basic yoga pose, and no matter what style of yoga you study, you'll end up in this pose more than a handful of times in one class. Even though it looks pretty straightforward, it's a challenging position to hold since most of your weight is in your upper body. It's also difficult if you have tight hamstrings, so don't be frustrated if your knees are bent or your heels don't touch the ground.
|Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana|
English Translation: Downward Facing Dog Pose
Also Called: Down Dog
To find out how to do Down Dog, read more
Downward Facing Dog is a total body workout. It stretches your hamstrings and strengthens your upper body. If you do the Partner Yoga pose Double Dog, the person on the bottom gets even more of a deep stretch, and the person on the top gets a killer upper body and core workout.
What happens if you do Triple Dog with three people? It feels amazing to be physically connected to two other people like this. It takes even more strength and communication to get into this pose (and stay in it), but when you do, it's an amazing feeling.
To find out how to get into it, read more
I'm sure you all have your favorite yoga poses. We love ones that help you stretch out and increase your flexibility. Or the ones that help us heal or rehabilitate injured muscles. We also love the ones that relieve tension and stress.
Then there are the poses are all about strength. They're challenging to do, so when you finally get into them, you feel confident, safe, and stable. Sage is one of those poses for me.
|Sanskrit Name: (beginner's) Vasisthasana
English Translation: Sage
Also Called: Side Plank
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog pose. Step both feet together so your big toes are touching.
- Now move your right hand over to the left so it's at the center of your mat (still at the top of your mat).
- Roll over to your right side and plant your right heel down so you are balancing on the outside edge of your right foot. You want your left foot to be stacked on top of your left foot with both feet flexed. If this is too hard, bend your left knee and place your left foot flat on the ground in front of your right leg for support.
- Reach your left arm up above you and if you can, gaze up at your palm. Engage your right fingertips so you can take some pressure out of your wrists. Stay here for five deep breaths, trying to keep your core strong and the pose steady.
- Now drop your left hand back down and place your right hand back where it was near the top right corner of your mat. Separate your feet so you are in a "top of a push-up" position (Plank). Now take a vinyasa and come back to Downward Facing Dog. Then do the other side.
Doing yoga can be so much fun, especially when you do it with people you care about. Why not designate a half hour this weekend to practicing with your entire family? Ideally you should do it around 10:30 or 2:30, so you are in between mealtimes (yoga doesn't feel very good on a full or completely empty belly).
Pick a spot in your home or outside if weather permits so you all have enough space to move. You can set up mats if you have them, or just do the poses on a hard wood floor or carpet.
If you have experience going to yoga classes, just think of the poses you love to do, the ones that stretch and open, relax or energize, or the ones that are fun to try.
If you have younger kids in your family, make the poses more active. Bark like a dog in downward facing dog pose. "Ribbit" and leap like a frog in Squat pose. Make a forest when your entire family does Tree pose. Each person can practice being the wind and blowing the branches in the trees.
Kids also love being in charge, so you can play a game of "Simon Says" with yoga poses. At the end, when you lie down in Savasana to rest from all your hard work, you can take turns massaging each other's feet.
With a little creativity, you'll be doing yoga together and having fun in a healthy way.
Fit's Tips: Maybe yoga is new to you. If so, check out this incredible book called Playful Family Yoga for Kids, Parents, and Grandparents. It's actually out of print now, but you can get a copy through Amazon starting at $39.99. I love this book because it illustrates so many wonderful partner poses.
We've finally learned all the poses that make up Sun Salutation A, so we can link them all together.
The Sanskrit word for Sun Salutation is Surya Namaskar. Surya means "Sun," and "Namaskar" is a greeting of honor and respect to the divinity present in each one of us. In case you were curious, the word "Namaste" comes from the word "Namaskar," and is used as a greeting and a way to give praise. When you go to a yoga class, at the end the teacher often says "Namaste," as a way to say "thank you," "be well," and "goodbye."
Doing Sun Salutations is a way of respecting the Sun and the Earth, and all it has offered us. It's also a way to warm up the body and get your muscles ready to do deeper stretching and more difficult yoga postures. You'll work every part of your body doing Sun Salutation A - your arms, shoulders, neck, spine, hamstrings, calves, and feet.
When you take an Ashtanga yoga class, it always begins with the opening chant, and then 5 Sun Salutation As in a row. In other types of yoga, they usually do variations on a sun salutation, so parts of this series may look familiar to you.
Do you want to see what Sun Salutation A looks like? Then read more