Anyone looking to enhance their physical workout routine can benefit from incorporating yoga into their practice. Even if you don’t feel like going to a class at a studio is the right choice for you, practicing a few select poses that strengthen, stretch, and tone can help you work past your physical boundaries and explore the many capabilities that you didn’t even realize your body has.
Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is a foundational yoga pose that most people are familiar with, even if they’ve never stepped into a yoga studio. The pose is central to most yoga classes, due to the benefits it has for the entire body. It’s the perfect posture to try out because anyone can work it into their routine, as it is easily modifiable for people of all flexibility and athletic levels. It is great for building up strength and power in the legs and arms, while also stretching out the hamstrings and back.
Performing Downward Dog
Start from a tabletop position, with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. On an exhale, engage your core, curl your toes underneath your feet, and lift your knees off the ground, working towards straightening your legs. Stretch your tailbone back and up towards the ceiling.
Your head should remain active, with your gaze focused in between your legs, rather than down at the ground or ahead of you. Continue to focus your weight on the inside edges of your palms, pushing through your index fingers and thumbs. If you tend to hyperextend your elbows, you may want to bring a slight bend to them.
Before settling into stillness, allow yourself to focus the stretch on the back of your legs by bending one knee and then the other. You may also choose to bend both knees at the same time, and then push back through your heels towards straight legs. Both of these movements will help gently open up your hamstrings and warm up the body. Once you have reached stillness, hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, and release back down to your knees.
One of the great things about Downward Dog is that it is easy to modify for all levels and physical limitations. If your hamstrings are tight, you may choose to bend your knees to make the pose more accessible. If you find it difficult to put a lot of pressure on your arms or wrists, you can bring the ground closer to you by using a chair and placing your hands on the seat for elevated support.
Benefits of Downward Dog
Since Downward Dog works the entire body, there are a variety of wonderful benefits, including the following:
- Energizes your body and mind.
- Works to eliminate back tension and stiffness.
- Strengthens the arms and legs.
- Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and back muscles.
- Builds bone density.
- Boosts circulation by placing your heart above your head, which can help regulate blood pressure and give your complexion a healthy glow.
- May help open up the sinuses, resulting in allergy relief.
- Encourages better posture, and fights against symptoms of slumping, such as a stiff neck or shoulders.
Try practicing Downward Dog on a regular basis. It is accessible for anyone, easily modifiable for all needs and physical limitations, and gives the double-duty benefits of both strengthening and stretching the body. With a consistent dedication to working it into your physical routine, you will begin to see and feel the incredible results that come from the pose.