I once heard a yoga instructor of mine call downward facing dog a "resting pose." Ha! I beg to differ. This pose is an energizing pose and is very physically demanding for the upper body. It strengthens the arms, shoulders and core muscles while lengthening the spine and stretching the hamstrings. It tones the digestive organs, and when done with the head supported, this pose can also relieve headaches and menstrual discomfort.
Check out the variations below to find the one that works best for your body, and don't forget that you can always ask questions here.
TRADITIONAL DOWNWARD FACING DOG
Start on hands and knees, but unlike tabletop pose, you'll walk the hands slightly in front of the shoulders. Spread the fingers wide and press firmly into all ten fingertips. Curl your toes under, and begin to lift your hips up toward the sky. Reach the heels toward the floor and straighten the legs as far as you are able (If your heels don't touch the floor, you might like the next modification option). Lengthen your tailbone away from the crown of your head. Engage the lower belly to protect your lower back and to prevent all of your weight from falling on your hands. Shoulders are plugged in their sockets, relaxed away from the ears. Take ten deep breaths here, then take rest in child's pose.
Modify or avoid this pose if you have a rotator cuff injury, high blood pressure, diarrhea, or carpal tunnel.
VARIATION: BLANKET UNDER THE HEELS
Adding a blanket underneath your heels will allow you to ground your feet firmly into the earth while still maintaining a bend in your knees. This is helpful if you have tight hamstrings.
POSE ALTERNATIVE: DOLPHIN POSE
If you have sensitive wrists, dolphin pose might be a good alternative to downward facing dog. However, dolphin pose does put a lot more pressure on the shoulders and requires quite a bit of shoulder flexibility. To come into this pose, start on your hands and knees. Drop down to your forearms with the elbows in line with the wrists. Curl your toes under and begin to lift your hips and straighten your legs. Hold for ten deep breaths and then take rest in child's pose.
CHAIR YOGA VARIATIONS
These variations are incredibly helpful if you have sensitive wrists, upper body weakness, headaches, dizziness, or balance issues.
The first two standing variations are pretty similar, but the first one will give you more of an upper body stretch. The second variation, gives you a lower body stretch while allowing you to rest your head. This variation is especially beneficial for headaches.
The third chair variation allows you to support your entire body weight on the chair. You don't have to worry about balance at all, but you still get the benefits of the upper body stretch, lower back pain relief and benefits for the digestive system.
HOW DID IT GO?
If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress!