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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."