Happy Monday! So, how many House of Cards episodes did everyone get through this past weekend? We were feeling under the weather over here and took it easy all weekend. And by taking it easy I mean to say that we watched Netflix almost all day. When your body needs to slow down, sometimes it forces you to listen by giving you a stomach bug. Ick. Feeling much better today and feeling particularly excited with some new ideas for the blog on my mind. I am dedicating a few days each week to specific topics on yoga and to start, each Monday I will be focusing on a new asana. Tips to getting into a pose, alignment, helpful cues, and the benefits of a posture coming to you every Monday to start your week off right.
Okay, let's get right into it and begin with a pose that a lot of people are familiar with: Downward Facing Dog. During teacher training, we spent hours analyzing this pose - and for good reason! Downward Facing Dog, or Adhu Mukha Svanasana, is an integral part of Sun Salutations, sequencing, and many yoga classes. Often times we just pop into the pose without giving it much thought or care when in fact, the body is using so many different muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments to sustain this position. Try holding the pose for just two minutes- it is really difficult!
What are the benefits of Downward Facing Dog - why do we get into this pose so often when we are on the mat? For beginners, it is a great way to start building stregnth in the arms, legs, core, wrists, ankles...well just about everywhere! For beginners and more experienced practicioners alike it is a helpful posture to get back in check with your breath and focus on some key alignment in the body. Our physical and mental state is different each time we come to the mat so we need not expect the same posture during every practice either. Downward Facing Dog is a great way to 'check-in' with your body - are your calves tight? Are your wrists sore? Are you experiecing a lot of tension in the shoulders and neck? Downward Dog will help bring those points to your attention. So, next time you flow into this pose, think about how your body is feeling today and focus on your alingment from the toes all the way to the nose!
Now, let's talk about two different ways to get into the pose:
From Plank, draw the hips up towards the back of your mat, feeling the side body lengthen. Moving from Plank into Downward Facing Dog helps your body find the correct distance between the hands and the feet. Try flowing back from Downward Dog to Plank to ensure that your shoulders are over your wrists and your legs are straight and active.
Once you are in the pose, straighten one leg and then the other and play around a bit with the distribution of your own weight and find that balance between the hands and feet. The heels should be drawing towards the floor with your legs about hip-width distance apart. Take a peek back and if you can see your heels turn the feet outward a bit so that the heels are hidden from view.
The hips are drawing up towards the sky - creating space in your body and decompressing the spine. Ahh, it feels so nice!
The shoulder blades are drawing down the back and the shoulders are depressed - making sure there is no tension in the neck and shoulders. The upper arms are externally rotating - helping to keep the shoulders drawn down and the elbows and wrists in alignment. What does external rotation of the upper arms look like? Think of it as if you were trying to hide your armpits from people practicing on either side of your mat. Feel the thumb and first finger pressing into the mat and drawing energy from the ground up through your hands and arms.
The neck, an extension of the spine, is in a neutral position. It should not be hanging so that you are gazing at your own navel but it should not be crunching up either. Every body's alingment is different but a good rule of thumb is that your head is in line with your upper arms.
There you are - a beautiful and sustainable Adho Mukha Svanasana!
Have any specific questions about this posture or want additional tips? Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email (KellyLawson86@gmail.com).
Happy yogaing, everyone!