Downward Facing Dog, it felt so awkward the first time, it feels so good, finally – but if staying for a long time doesn’t feel as good as you think it should sound familiar to how you feel about this pose and either want to improve your Down Dog or want to share with your students how to improve theirs, here are a few tips:
First of all, you always (in every pose) need to apply the Foundations of Alignment first (buy or refer to it if you already own, my book for details.) Foundation of Alignment describes to start with the feet first, in the case of Down Dog, you’ll work with both the feet and the hands because their both on the ground at the same time.
Engage padha and hasta Banda, foot and hand lock.
Hands: open the hands for a proper hasta bandha. Broaden the hands where you can imagine the head of the arm bone(s) is at each shoulder – this width apart, as appose to “shoulder width apart.”
Legs: Bend the knees to lift the buttocks exposing the sitting bones. The sitting bones should be adjusted up and spreading out. Maintain the lift of the sitting bones. Begin to straighten the knees. If this is too hard, don’t forsake the sitting bones to straighten the knees. Instead, keep the knees micro (or more) bent.
Arms: Internally rotate the forearms.
Bend the elbows an inch or two behind the wrists (as in “turbo dog”)
Externally rotate the upper arms; therefore, broadening the shoulders.
Pelvis: Keep the sitting bones lifted as you tilt the pubic bone (not the pelvis) toward the navel.
Arms: Insure the arms are still internally rotated at the forearms and externally rotated at the shoulders.
Ribs: (This is a big one in order to retain prana while in the pose.) Bring the ribs back into the thoracic body by tilting the low ribs down toward your navel – imagine expanding the lower and upper mid-back.
Pelvis and Ribs: To tie together: Lift the sitting bones. Tilt the pubic bone up toward the navel. Tilt the low ribs down toward the navel expanding the middle and low back.
Head: Pull the crown of the head toward the thumbs, gazing in front of the toes.
Shoulders: Spread them!
Something to always remember: never lock a joint in yoga. Instead, strengthen the joint and muscles around the joint by micro bending (this is not an obvious bend).
Frequently Asked Questions about Downward Facing Dog:
Q: how far apart should my hands and feet be?
A: at first, start at table-top with the knees under hips and hands under shoulders.Once you’re stretched out here, and ready to go longer, start from extended arms child’s pose.(A helpful hint from my friend, Christine Northcote)
Q: Should my elbows be facing each other or facing forward?
A: If you align your arms as in the Foundation of Alignment, they should create the shape of a “V” if they were to meet. So a little out and a little in.
Q: should my heels touch the ground?
A: This will happen after a long time of practicing the steps above. Until then, let them be off the ground. Of course it’s great to get a calf stretch, but they’re stretching if you’re applying the above techniques, trust me!
Forget about what this pose or any other pose looks like. Tune in and turn on the inside of You, you’ll know just what you need to do and when to do it – because of this, it will look perfect.
I hope this helps!
Pass it along.
Namaste, Om Shanti & Love,