One of the most recognized yoga poses in the West, Downward-Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana (Ah-doh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh), is a standing pose and mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body. It’s named after the way dogs naturally stretch their entire bodies. Downward-Facing Dog (also called “Downward Dog” or just “Down Dog”) is used as a starting point ,a transitional pose, a resting pose, a place of refuge and a strength-builder.
Downward-Facing Dog deeply stretches your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine while building strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs. Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion and holds all the benefits of inversions: Relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression. The flow of blood to the brain also calms the nervous system, improves memory and concentration, and relieves stress.
If you do just one yoga pose today, make it Downward-Facing Dog. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!
Standing; Mild Inversion
• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
• Energizes the body
• Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
• Strengthens the arms and legs
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
• Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
• Helps prevent osteoporosis
• Improves digestion
• Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
• Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
Plank; Standing Forward Fold
Standing poses; Standing Forward Fold
• Engage your outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward.
• Imagine your hip bones moving towards each other as a way to narrow the front of your pelvis.
• Open your shoulder blades wide and relax them down your back.
• Engage the outer arms strongly.
• Distribute the weight evenly in your fingers to support the arms.
Variations & Cautions:
• Keep the knees generously bent and the heels off the ground. This helps to raise the hips and push the torso towards your thighs.
• Bend one knee at a time and push the opposite heel into the mat. Alternate back and forth, pedaling out your feet and warming the body into this deep stretch.
As with all postures, I encourage you to listen to your body and honor where you are mentally, physically and emotionally each day. The pose will be there again tomorrow… practice in such a way that you can be too!
Hollye and the SGY Teaching Team
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“I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector.”
~ William Stafford