"Get Comfortable In Your Downward-Facing Dog"

In every yoga class I go to, that’s what all the instructors love to say. That, and the fact that it’s a “resting pose.”
I’ve never found Downward-Facing Dog particularly relaxing. I remember the first few weeks of YTT where we had to hold the pose for 5 arduous breaths (longer, if there were adjustments to be made for the entire class) in every Sun Salutation sequence.
It was pure torture. My arms trembled, because I was finally told not to hyper-extend my elbows, and had to rely purely on arm strength; my legs shook from the strain of lifting my kneecaps and pushing my thighs back. It wasn’t until recently that my Downward-Facing Dog became an asana for me –  a steady, comfortable pose.
Simple though it may be, it’s a great stretch – especially for the back, shoulders and upper body – after a long day of sitting at your desk. When done right, this foundational pose can power up your practice, help you to develop upper body strength and alleviate stiffness and back pain.
Here’s how to work into a proper alignment for your Downward-Facing Dog.
1. Come on to all fours. Make sure that your hands are shoulder-width distance apart, and your knees are hip-width distance apart.
2. Tuck your toes under, ground your fingers and palms firmly into the mat, and lift your hips up.
3. Make sure that your arms are straight, but don’t lock or hyper-extend your elbows. Check that your shoulders are away from the ears, and not hunched.
4. Keep your spine straight. Engage your Uddiyana Bandha to lengthen your spine, and lift your tailbone.
5. Shift your weight back into your legs, so that your hands are not taking most of the weight.
6. Try to press your heels down onto the mat if possible. Otherwise, you can maintain a micro-bend in your knees, but continue to lift those hips high.
7. Stay here for 5 breaths and chill in your Downward-Facing Dog.
Or take it out for a walk among Nature. 🙂
Cheryl Leong (200hr Hatha/Ashtanga Weekends – July 2015)

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