This week’s yoga pose is downward-facing dog, part of the traditional sun salutation sequence, and also a great asana to do on its own. Stacia Nero of Deliver Me Wellness demonstrates the standard downward dog here, followed by a leg variation and then desk dog. Desk dog is downward facing dog using the support of a wall, desk, table, or chair. It’s a pose that you can take with you anywhere you go, especially at the office!
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start by getting onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
With an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly.
Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone.
Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 7 breaths in yoga sequence or just 1 to 3 minutes when focusing purely on the pose. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose.
See animated gif at top of post for visual demonstration.
Here Stacia demonstrates a leg variation of downward dog, in which the leg is lifted upwards towards the ceiling and then bent at the knee.
For desk dog, instead of pressing your hands against the floor, press against a ninety degree solid surface. Focus on all the same adjustments in head, shoulders, back, and legs.
Benefits of the Downward Dog Pose
- Stretches hamstring and calf muscles
- Lengthens the spine
- Strengthens the upper body, arms, and wrists
- Opens the chest
- Increases shoulder flexibility
- Great for increasing bone density as a weight bearing exercise
- As a mild inversion, the heart is rested and the brain is quieted