Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Adho= Down.. Mukha= Face ..Svana= Dog

 

Every time I do this pose, and I do it a lot, I still connect to the fact that this pose is done throughout the day by jungle cats to keep their spines loose and free. Sometimes I even refer to it to my students as "downward cheetah". It is one of the corner stone poses in Sun Salutations (Suryanamskar), so if you do Ashtanga, Power, Hatha or some types of Iyengar yoga, you will probably do this pose a lot.

This asana (pose) stretches the whole back body from the heels through the spine and right out through the arms. Other openings are created in the armpits and the shins as well. It should enliven the body and not tire you. If you find this pose tiring read the tips down below.

 

Technique

1. Lie face down on the floor, feet hips width apart, legs straight with toes tucked under. Hands are behind the armpits, beside the ribs. The fingertips should be directly under the shoulders.

2. Make full contact with the whole hand, middle finger pointing forward. Throughout the pose make sure that there is no space between the floor and the hand.

3. Exhaling, lift the hips up and then backwards. Start to straighten your legs and keep your arms engaged. Keep the feet parallel and 6-8 inches (hips distance) apart.

4. Keep a soft gaze between your feet (intermediate) or towards the navel (advanced)

5. Hold for five calm, silky smooth ujaii breaths (in and out through the nose only)

Beginner Tip: Eventually this pose is a resting pose, yet many beginners put themselves through unnecessary gruel and hardship in this pose. The most common problem I see is that because of tight hamstrings, one can not keep the weight of the hips moving backwards and up. Therefore there tends to be too much work done with the shoulder muscles. Instead of being a resting and opening pose, it becomes more like a cruel pushup invented perhaps during the inquisition.

The solution is so simple. Just bend the knees slightly. By doing this the weight of the pelvis can move up and back and the arms can stay straight and long. Thereby the whole back body still gets lengthened and as the hamstrings and calves loosen up from continual practice, one can slowly start to work into straighter legs. Don't make this a pose that you have to struggle through.

Advanced tip: Start to open up the back (lat muscles) by pressing your inner wrist into the floor to spiral the arms so the elbows roll towards your body (shavasana rotation).

Bahandas: Keep the ribcage broad and suck in the solar plexus so your chest becomes active broad and full, your abdomen passive (Uddiyanda Bhanda). Suck in your perineum (the area commonly referred to as the "taint" - between the anus and the genitals (Moola Bhanda)

Find some sukha (comfort) in the pose, relax and enjoy. Your whole body is thanking you! One day you may be able to run at 45 mph too!

It's all good!

BACK TO ASANA PRACTICE



Borrowed from Nature:

One of the main reasons why cheetahs can run at up to sixty miles per hour is because of the flexibilty in their spines. Notice the cheetah stretch of choice...
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