English Name: Downward-Facing Dog
Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Downward-Facing dog has many benefits, it’s a great pose to energize the body, calm the brain and relieve stress and mild depression. It can improve digestion, help prevent osteoporosis, stretch the shoulders, calves, hamstrings, arches and hands. It can also help relieve symptoms of menopause, it can also relieve menstrual discomfort when the head is supported. Downward-Facing dog can also relieve headaches, insomnia, back pain, fatigue, it is therapeutic for asthmatics and can help people with high blood pressure, flat feet, sciatica and sinusitis.
How to do it: Sit on your mat on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your hands are slightly in front of your shoulders. Spread your palms wide, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent, if this is enough for you then stop there. Downward-Facing Dog is a beginner’s pose but can be difficult for those with stiff legs. If you are ready to improve on the pose then lift the heels away from your mat. Lengthen your tail bone away from the back of your pelvis. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
Once you have achieved this, exhale. Push the top of the thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them, keep a slight bend or you will overstretch the muscles in the legs. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward-Facing Dog is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose (see previous yoga of the day pose).
Yoga Vocabulary: Sun Salutation Sequence – A dynamic asana sequence, also known as Surya Namaskar means to bow to or to adore. Each sun salutation begins and ends with joined hands (Mudra) touched to the heart. The placement means that only the heart can know the truth.