How To Do Downward Dog

Chloe Freytag demonstrating a Down Dog in a blue tank top and yoga pants

 

A favorite among most yoga students, Downward Dog is an outstanding pose for stretching the low back, hamstrings, lower legs and feet. When you arrive in this pose, there is almost an instant sensation of relief as tightness along the entire back of your body is released. Anyone and everyone – yoga student or not – should learn how to do Downward Dog.

There is a reason Downward Dog is repeated so frequently during almost all yoga practices. It is a pose like no other. Not only is it simple for most people to do, but is feels good to nearly everyone. In addition, it is one of the most malleable poses since it can be adjusted to go deeper or lighter almost instantly by applying more or less pressure through the hands, arms and back. And if you’ve ever owned a dog you know instantly where this pose got its name. The position of Downward Dog is inherent in dogs because of the release it provides in the spine.

More than just a stretch for the spine, however, Downward Dog is a pose of strength. It takes back, shoulder and arm muscles to push the body into its proper position for Downward Dog. The deeper you want to stretch, the more you need to push through your upper body muscles and the more you work on isometric strength.

One of the unique benefits of Downward Dog is the stretch in the lower leg, achilles and feet. No other pose provides this kind of stretch to a place on your body that can be so tight and prone to injury. Tight calves pull on achilles tendons which pull on the bottom of the feet. When you are able to stretch all of those in one simple pose, you should definitely take advantage!

1) Begin in a kneeling position on your mat with hands directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide.

2) Tuck your toes under and engage your abdominals as you push your body up off the mat so only your hands and feet are on the mat.

3) Press through your hands moving your chest gently toward your thighs and your heels gently toward the floor.

4) Relax your head and neck and breathe fully.

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