Downdog 101

Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Downward facing dog.

Downdog.

The pose that everyone loves to hate. But why? Why is that simple-looking pose so effing hard?

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 5-6 years now and downdog was an asana that took some time to learn properly. I want to break it down for you so you can have a better practice and get the most from your downdog so it doesn’t take you years to master your dog.

I love downdog for a multitude of reasons:

  • It calms and quites the brain allowing you to relax the mind.
  • It strengthens the shoulders and legs.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Improves your posture by strengthening the upper body.
  • Improves circulation to the upper body. It causes blood to move into the face creating that “glow” that makes your skin look flawless.
  • It can alleviate the pain of menstrual cramps.

To start your journey to a great downdog give yourself some grace, this pose is hard.

Ok, let’s roll out our mats and begin.

Start in tabletop. Wrists are below the shoulders and knees are directly below the hips and hip distance apart. Press the fingertips and the tops of the feet into the mat. The crown of the head is reaching long to elongate the spine. Start to create space throughout the body. Inhale and exhale for 5 breaths through the nose. This is cow pose.

This ones the cat.

Begin to move into cat/cow. As you exhale press the tailbone down towards the mat, curving the spine and pulling the chin to the chest. As you inhale drop the belly down, tailbone curls up and the chest lifts upward allowing the belly button to sink lower to the mat. Move intentionally through cat/cow for 10 breaths. 

On your next inhale press yourself to plank. Engage the core and the glutes. Press the hands into the mat and use your core to hold you high. Hold plank for 5 breaths, remember to BREATHE! (Fun fact, you should be able to move freely between downdog and plank without moving the hands and the feet.)

As you exhale, drop your knees back to the mat for tabletop and inhale the feet off of the mat. Press through the fingertips and engage the core. Inhale. 

As you exhale, pull the elbows in toward the ribcage (they might even graze the ribs) and lower down like a push-up. Allow yourself to move through this modified push-up 5 times. 

Inhale and press yourself back up to tabletop. Curl the toes under and breath deeply through the nose for 5 breaths. 

As you inhale begin to lift the knees off of the mat a few inches.  Exhale the knees back down and inhale the knees back up a few inches. Repeat 5 times. 

On your next inhale press yourself all the way up to downdog. Lift from the hips, pressing the tailbone as high as you can. You want to imagine that you have feathers on your tailbone that you are trying to touch the ceiling with. Sounds corny but I promise the visualization makes sense in the posture.  Press into the fingers and allow the ears to fall between the biceps. Your palms and armpits should be nice and hollow. 

Begin to invite movement into your downdog by peddling the feet out from right to left. Feel free to move however your body needs, especially for your first downdog of the day.

Give yourself a solid minute in downdog, moving with intention between the left and right side. Make sure you are continuing to breathe in and out throughout the nose. It’s ok to let sighs out of the mouth from time to time. Sighing out of the mouth can release tension from the body allowing you to relax even further. 

Inhale and press onto the tip toes lifting the heels off of the mat.  As you exhale begin to bring the heels back down to the mat. Inhale and lift up onto the tiptoes once more, exhale and lower the heels. Repeat for 10 breaths.

As you inhale allow the knees to bend. Guys, this is a totally acceptable downdog. If straightening your legs is really difficult it is absolutely ok to keep the knees bent.

If you would like to deepen your stretch allow the forearms to drop to the mat for dolphin plank. Hold this pose for 5 breaths. As you exhale allow the knees to drop down to the mat. Press the fingertips into the mat and lift the chest up to tabletop.

Find stillness in your tabletop. Pressing the hands and the tops of the feets. Bring awareness to the breath by inhaling and allowing the ribcage to expand and allow it to collapse as your exhale. Take 5 solid breaths. 

As you exhale allow the chest to slowly make its way to the mat. Extend the arms out long and bring the chin to the mat, this is called puppydog pose. If your chest can’t make it all the way to the mat that is OK. Just move with intention and only go as far as the body allows. Remember, this is YOUR practice. 

After you feel you are complete with puppydog allow yourself to gently roll up and make your way to tadasana, or standing. Inhale arms up and exhale to fold. Press the heels into the mat and begin to lift the toes off of the mat. Slowly slide the hands underneath the feet and gently massage the hands into the mat under the feet. Padahastasana!

As you exhale slowly bring the head in towards the knees. Continue breathing for 5-10 breaths. Inhale and release back to tabletop. 

Press the body back to childspose and stay here for as long as you choose! Allow the forehead to meet the mat and slowly rock the forehead from left to right, massaging the third eye to release any leftover tension.

It gets easier the more you practice. Keep coming back to your mat and keep extending grace to yourself, you’re amazing!!!!

Drop a comment below with any questions or if you have any tips or tricks to share!! Enjoy your practice.

 

Namaste.

 

Love love love,

Kari Jo

 

 

 

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