How to Improve Your Downward Facing Dog

Improve Your Downward Facing Dog
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The Inverted V or Downward Facing Dog is one of Yoga’s most recognizable poses and may seem to be one of the easiest as well.

In most Yoga styles, the Downward facing dog is either a strengthening pose, a pose to transition or in some, a resting pose. It is important to make sure that your alignment is right so that you don’t hurt relevant parts of your anatomy.

Misalignment in the downward facing dog pose can result in unwanted tensions in your body and could strain your wrists, shoulders and spine. If done correctly, the Downward Facing Dog pose energizes your body and helps you relieve stress and mild depression.  

Here are 8 alignment tips that will help you make sure you get the most from this popular Yoga pose.

1. Neck and head should be perfectly aligned with the spine

In true inverted V form, the neck and head must follow a natural line with the spine.  Be careful not to have your head hanging down nor should you let your neck crunch too far up. As a guide, make sure your ears are aligned with your arms as you stretch it out. It is important to be conscious of your spine at all times while doing this pose.

2.  Make sure the hands are shoulder distance apart

Align your wrist crease towards the front of the mat with your fingers spread wide open. Make sure your hands are shoulder distance apart so that your body weight is supported properly by the muscles in your arms. The stress will be less on your neck if weight is supported by your arms.

3.  Feel the energy as in your arms

With your hands pressed down on the floor, feel the energy flow upwards to activate your arms.  Imagine your thumbs are drawn towards each other remembering to keep your hand’s shoulder distance apart.

4.  Keep your shoulders away from your ears

Relax your shoulders making sure to keep them away from your ears. You risk stressing your shoulder muscles when you unconsciously crunch them while trying to maintain your pose.

5.  Rotate your upper arms out and your forearms in

This will help keep your shoulders away from your ears. It may seem tricky but if done properly, this will broaden and stabilize your shoulders across your back and give you that much needed support to keep your weight off your neck and spine. It will also help you do the pose more comfortably.

6.  Keep your feet hip distance apart

Check your feet to make sure they are hip distance apart.  If you can see your feet while in the inverted pose, spread them either inward or outward until you can no longer see them.

You should be able to hold the pose better and more comfortably if you make sure that proper support is done as you stretch your legs. It will also help ease some tension off your hamstrings.

7.  Bend your knees while sending your tailbone up and back

You may feel a tightening of your hamstrings but for the sake of your back, it would be best to bend your knees a little or a lot depending as the case may be rather than force your heels down to hold your pose. Be conscious of your spine making sure it doesn’t get hurt while you do your stretch.

8.  Draw your navel in towards your spine

A strong core is key. Take some weight off your shoulders and wrists by drawing your navel in towards your spine and bring it back onto your legs.  Keep this going throughout the pose. It helps you build and strengthen your core as well.

9.  Straighten your legs as you lengthen the heels back

Lengthening out through your legs is one of the benefits of the downward facing dog pose. This is achieved while pulling the heels down. Some people are able to do this easily and some are not.

Do not feel pressured to press your heels down though. As always, be conscious of your spine making sure that it doesn’t get hurt as you pull your heels down flat on the floor. You may not achieve this easily at first but with constant practice, you should be successful in time.

You may have to modify some of these as the case may be depending on your injuries or conditions. Seek the advice of your Yoga instructor to find out what modifications you can do so that you avoid hurting yourself.  

The Downward Facing Dog is one of Yoga’s most recognizable poses. Here are some alignment tips to improve your Downward facing dog for a better yoga pose.
The Downward Facing Dog is one of Yoga’s most recognizable poses. Here are some alignment tips to improve your Downward facing dog for a better yoga pose.