Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Downward Facing Dog

I have seen a lot of bad Down Dogs in my day. Although it seems simple to plant hands and feet on the mat and stick the butt in the air, it's tough to do it correctly!

A strong base is important; if you feel off balance, or fatigued in the wrists, you're going to compromise your form. Additionally, the core needs to be tucked in to eliminate a back bend, which is a common problem in Down Dog.

Imagine you are trying to get your entire hand print on the mat. Not just the heels of your hands (by your wrists). You need each fingertip to leave an impression on the mat, so stretch those hands wide and press through all of your fingers while in Down Dog.

Moving up the arms towards the shoulders, envision your biceps rounding in to the ears. Turn those muscles inward as if you were going to touch your ears with them. While doing so, you can feel your shoulder blades getting a little wider across your back, which is a good thing! It's also important to "push" the shoulders down the back away from the ears.

Follow your arms through your shoulders and focus on your back. Find length from the crown of your head (which is dropped loose toward the mat) all the way to your tailbone, which is reaching skyward. Squeeze your gluts together and tuck in that tummy.

The legs can be bent in Down Dog (if your hamstrings are tight like mine) or you can straighten the legs with soft knees. The "goal" is to reach the heels to the floor, even if your body is never able to get to that point. The legs should be about hip width apart, with those toes gripping the mat as your heels stretch toward the mat.

It may also be helpful to imagine that your chest is pressing toward your thighs. Try bending your knees so that you can actually touch the belly to the thighs. Once you find stability there, slowly lengthen the legs and you'll find your posture improved.

Down Dog is technically a resting posture, but if you're not doing it correctly it sure doesn't feel that way. And since this is a posture done frequently in Yoga it's important to do it to the best of your ability.

When all else fails, watch your dog stretch! You'll get a better feel for what your body should like that when you watch the animal for which this posture is named.

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