One of the most recognized poses in the West is the Downward-Facing Dog. This pose builds strength while stretching the entire body. You may have guessed that this pose is named after the way dogs naturally stretch their bodies.
This pose is great for all ages and is commonly used as a transition between other poses during a typical yoga session.
Downward-Facing Dog is known to energize and rejuvenate the entire body. When performed, this simple, but highly effective pose will deeply stretch your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine. This pose will also strengthen your arms, shoulders, and legs! During this pose, your heart will be elevated higher than your head, which is considered a mild inversion. Inversions provide many benefits including, relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression. The increased flow of blood to your brain also creates a calming effect on your nervous system and has been known to relief stress.
Steps To Perform
Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sitting bones toward the wall behind you. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an “A.”
Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling.
Flex the outer muscles of your arms and press your thumb and index fingers into the floor.
Roll your outer arms toward your ears.
Engage your quadriceps. Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sitting bones high. Sink your heels toward the floor.
Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze between your legs.
Hold for 5-50 breaths.
To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your hands and knees.
To begin warming up and stretching the hips, bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight. Change sides and repeat five times.
For a greater challenge, lift your right leg as high as possible, reaching through your heel. Keeping your right leg lifted, extend your left arm behind you. Rest the back of your hand on your low back. Repeat on the other side.
For a restorative version of the pose, place a block under your head. Release all neck tension. Hold for up to five minutes.
Here is an instructional video showing the exact steps to perform this pose:
Try a few rounds Downward-Facing Dog throughout the day to increase blood flow and energy levels while also reducing stress!