About Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-facing Dog. This is a fundamental asana in the Ashtanga yoga primary series and probably most frequently-done pose in most yoga classes. I dreaded every single time hearing the yoga instructors say “REST in the down-dog position”, seriously?! “REST”? I don’t feel resting at all in this pose because each and every time, I struggled in vain to sink my heels down to the floor! I am probably the only student whom has been adjusted by EVERY teacher who had taught us in the Tirisula studio (even the student teachers), even till this date … “sweat!!!”… 
Then I started googling how to do Downward facing dog and watched countless videos. This Asana supposedly energizes and rejuvenates the entire body if done correctly. In order for the heels to touch the floor, every time I had to shift my feet a bit forward towards my hands, however that actually defeats the purpose of this pose as it was to stretch the entire body, especially lengthening the spine.
Since I couldn’t achieve that, I thought I should at least reap the benefits of this asana by setting the rest of the body parts in the correction positions and in proper alignment. Here’s step-by-step:
1. Begin on hands and knees. Align the wrists directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips.
2. Spread the fingers wide and press firmly through the palms and knuckles. Stretch the elbows and relax the upper back.
3. Exhale as you tuck the toes and lift the knees off the floor. Reach the pelvis up toward the ceiling, and draw the sit bones backwards. Gently begin to straighten the legs, but do not lock the knees.
4. Bring the body into the shape of an inverted “V” shape. Imagine your hips and thighs being pulled backwards from the top of your thighs. Do not walk the feet closer to the hands — keep the extension of the whole body. The distance between the hands and feet should be the same as you are in a Plank.
5. Press the floor away from you as you lift through the pelvis. As you lengthen the spine, lift the sit bones up toward the ceiling. Then press down equally through the heels and the palms of the hands.
6. Firm the outer muscles of the arms (tricep brachii). Lift from the inner muscles of the arms (bicep brachii) to the top of both shoulders (deltoid). Draw the shoulder blades into the upper back ribs and toward the tailbone.
7. Draw the chest toward thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing the spine.
8. Engage the quadriceps. Rotate the thighs inward as you continue to lift the sit bones high. Sink the heels toward the floor IF you can.
9. Align the ears with the upper arms. Relax the head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze toward the navel.
Ahah!… finally I’ve come to terms with my feet-not-being-able-to-touch-the-floor situation, as many people mentioned, “your feet may never touch the floor in downward facing dog”. It isn’t a fast and hard rule, the main idea is to find alignment thus allowing the body’s innate system of reducing stress to activate. And that’s when you can truly “REST” in Downward facing dog.
Zoe 13th Apr 2015

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