I still remember the time when I did not know the difference between Savasana and Svanasana and when it was a mystery to me how Downward Facing Dog aka Adho Mukha Svanasana could ever be conceived as a resting pose. I was working hard in that pose and still am, as the whole body is active in this asana.
While Downward Facing Dog is surely one of the most practiced postures, it is also one that holds a lot of potential for misalignment. Joints that don`t usually bear our body weight are being utilized and misaligment can lead to tension in the body or even strain in our wrists and shoulders.
It is crucial to understand the body dynamics behind this posture to make it safe and enjoyable and correct alignment will help you to find ease in your Downward Facing Dog, even allowing for it to become a resting pose.
How to get into the pose:
- Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Place your knees right under your hips and your hands about 2-3 inches forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, with the creases of your wrists parallel to the short end of your mat.
- Curl your toes under. On an exhalation draw the belly in and up to support your spine and lift your knees away from the floor. Keep the knees bent as you shift your hips up and back, lengthening the spine.
- Relax your head, ears aligned with your upper arms, keeping the neck long.
- Press down evenly through the base of each finger and palm and straighten your arms.
- Extend all four sides of the torso away from your hands.
- Reach your heels to the floor, in alignment with your second toes.
- Straigthen your knees any amount that your hamstrings and lower back will allow. If your legs are straight, make sure you`re not locking the knee joint.
Key actions while you are in the pose:
- Root down through the thumb and index finger mound as you roll your inner upper arms towards your outer upper arms to externally rotate your shoulders and broaden the back.
- Resist the forearms away from the floor.
- Press the shoulder blades into the chest as you draw the bottom ribs up towards your frontal hip bones.
- Press the tops of the thighs back as you lengthen through the top of the sternum.
- Press down through the four corners of your feet and lift the inner and outer arches.
- If your shoulders are tight, place your hands wider than shoulder width and consider turning the fingers out slightly.
- If your lower back or hamstrings are tender, place your feet mat distance apart and keep your knees bent.