How to do a Downward Dog – Step by Step Breakdown Yoga Tutorial

Downward Facing Dog is perhaps the most recognized posture in Yoga, and one of my personal favorites. The pose is a forward bend named after the resemblance to a dog stretching out with its hind legs extending upward and both head and forelegs facing downward. Downward Facing Dog often referred to as Downward Dog or simply Down Dog, creates length throughout the entire body, particularly in the back body, including the heels, calves, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and lower back. It also as develops strength in the wrists, shoulders and the back muscles.

For beginners, this posture can be somewhat challenging as it does require strength in the wrists, shoulders and core, to hold the pose for several breath rounds. One of the most rewarding feelings I experience as an instructor is in my Beginner’s yoga classes when for the first time, a student successfully nails their Down Dog pose.I can clearly remember, over 10 years ago, the first time I felt the rewarding sensation of “Hey!! I’ve got the pose!”

Downward Dog pose is the perfect example of the many benefits simple yoga postures can offer the body. It relieves stiffness in the back and between the shoulder blades; creates openness in the side body around the ribs and abdomen, and provides sense of calm as the heart rate is slowed down. When done correctly, this not only becomes the foundation of the yoga practice but it also offers the body relief from challenging sequencing and asanas (postures). Whether the student is new to yoga or an experienced practitioner, the benefits of Down Dog are truly limitless.

1.Begin in Table Position.

– On all fours, hands and knees. Spread the palms wide, stack the shoulders over wrists.
-Knees are hip distance apart, curl the toes under.
-Walk the palms just out in front of the shoulders. Be sure the palms are spread flat, no air under palms.

2. Raise the Body Up and Back into Posture.

-Ground down into the palms, raise the knees off the mat while shifting the stomach toward the thighs.
-Lift the hips up high, as the legs straighten. Keep toes pointing forward.Begin by maintaining a slight bend in the knees and over time as the body becomes more flexible slowly straightening the legs, reaching heels toward the mat. Do not lock the legs; keep a micro bend to prevent injury.

3.Hold and Breathe.

Continue to reach the heels toward the mat, raise the hips high.To help create space, it is an option to “walk the dog” or “paddle out the feet”.
-Bending one knee at a time while straightening the other leg, reach the heel toward the mat.
-Switch back and forth between left and right leg.
-Hold Down Dog for 5-10 or more breaths, release onto the knees to come out of the posture. Repeat many times throughout yoga practice or 2-3 times during the day stretch and elongate the entire body.

Variations:

Once the posture becomes comfortable, we can then begin to play with it through different variations. Lifting one leg straight up into the air, creating a “Three Legged Dog” offers o wonderful opening for the hip flexors while extending the abdominal muscles and challenging the strength in both shoulders and wrists.
Another variation that I often include in my classes is the “Down Dog Twist”.
-Walk the feet about a foot or two closer to the hands; reach the left palm to the right ankle or shin.
-With shoulders as square toward the front of the mat as possible, take the gaze under the right triceps.
This variation offers a gentle spinal twist while building shoulder, wrist and core strength.

I hope to see you in one of my classes soon. – Namaste

Contributing Author: Jennifer Nicol
Jennifer teaches various classes at Yoga Tree Yonge/Eglinton & Yoga Tree Richmond/Spadina. She is a certified 280 hours Yoga Teacher and is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She practices Hot Yoga, Hatha and Restorative Yoga.


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