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Downward Facing Dog

This video is part of our Foundations of Yoga series.
Watch on YouTube: Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Blog. My boyfriend thought of that. Not me.

Oh Downward Dog! Let me count the ways you have changed and continue to change. You are a shape shifter and a magical mirror.

Straight up: The day I fell in love with downward facing dog is the day I truly fell in love with Yoga.

Cue: Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life"

I will never forget those early dog days of yoga practice. I remind myself of them every time I welcome a new student onto the mat. Does it ever really get easier? Well, yes and no. It really doesn't because the check list just get longer and the pose juicer. But, your time and energy in DD do pay off. Eventually you begin to find ease. DD is a place to find ease. Maybe not at first but in addition to working on our [awesome] bodies we are here to practice life lessons. The lesson is that it may not be easy at first but practice and all is coming* and you will eventually find an honest way to marry the effort with the ease. You will move to a place where strength and grace can co-exist and chat for a bit. Downward dog is the perfect asana to have this conversation.

This posture is also just a class act full body stretch. This pose is perfect place for assessment. It helps us see things from a different angle. It is also an inversion so it is really classy and reverses the action of gravity so that your blood and lymph can flow in the opposite direction. For once in your life!

Slow and steady really wins the race on this one folks. Take your time. Pay attention to alignment but move in the posture. Dance! Keep it alive! For your own sanity! Place your hands mindfully. Bend your knees at first. Relax your neck and head. Melt your heart towards your thighs. Especially if you work in an office at a desk.

As I wrap this up I feel obligated to say- watch your dog. Seriously though, you should. If you have a dog or if you can borrow one for a day you should keep on the look out for this posture. My dog teaches me so much in his fine (mighty fine) display of the full body downward dog experience.

Give it a try. Stick with it till it becomes your best friend. Wink wink.

 

 

Benefits (get ready!)

  • Full body stretch!
  • Tones the arms and legs
  • Elongates the back (No more Mr. Burns shoulders. Smithers!!)
  • Builds strength in hands, wrists, shoulders
  • Reduces anxiety and relieves stress
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves digestion
  • Stimulates nervous system and can help with memory and concentration
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Great for flat feet!
  • Quiets the brain and can help relieve mild depression
  • Can help to relieve symptoms of menopause
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure
  • Oh and you should read this.

Modifications

  • Bend your knees!
  • Lift your heels up on a blanket
  • Place hands on two blocks
  • Practice a half dog at the wall if you suffer from carpel tunnel
  • For menstrual relief or if you have high blood pressure rest your forehead on a block or two or a bolster pillow.
  • To take some weight of the wrists you can try placing the base of the palms on a folded blanket or a fancy foam wedge. This opens the angle of the wrist. Press into your index finger and thumb firmly to continue to build strength.
  • Skip this pose if you are suffering from diarrhea. Come back to it another day.

 

*Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009)

Watch on YouTube: Downward Facing Dog

19 comments on “Downward Facing Dog”

  1. Hello Adriene! You are amazing! I love all of your yoga videos that you posted so far. They are very easy to understand especially for me as a person who is very new to yoga. I have recently started doing yoga and unfortunately I am incredibly unflexible lol but i believe ill get better 🙂 even though I started taking beginner classes I can't really get much out of them because they don't really explain the poses like you do in the videos. I decided to do some personal research and i found you. I believe your videos are the best ones available for absolute beginners like me. I am really having a hard time on the downward facing dog pose because I have very tight hamstrings so I can never hold my legs straight. Do you have any suggestions to improve this pose?

    1. Thank you my friend! There is this great quote that says something like, "Yoga is not about touching your toes but about experience you have on your way there." I am paraphrasing 🙂 But it IS about the journey. Not about the outcome or the shape of the pose. Yoga is integration - so important, in my opinion! Think of the body as one moving part when you practice down dog instead of letting your mind split your focus to different parts. Bend your knees and press up and out of the palms evenly. Move in the posture. Practice extending your breaths. How long can you make that inhale? How long can you extend that exhale while you are in the posture. That is my best advice for a beginner. Move slow and be mindful. Don't rush to get to the Down Dog shape- take your time my friend!
      There are plenty hammy stretches we can do too outside of this posture- but again its not just those hammies 🙂
      I can talk more about this question in my upcoming Vlog too.
      Thank you, great question and keep them coming!!! Love and Light, A

  2. Hi adriene, loving the videos, I am a complete beginner and I have found that I can kind of do the poses on the foundation series but not as aligned and awesome as you demonstrate e.g the DD my back is never straight and im not too sure on what your body should look like when your in full DD

    any suggestions and tips for complete beginners would be great

    much love, Steph xx

    1. Hi Steph, my best tip is "give it time" and my favorite suggestion is "practice" - seriously!
      For me the beauty and fun of yoga come in the unfolding process- the experiments you devise each time you step on the mat. My down-dog shape changes every week- based on how much I practice! So, give it time, let it unfold! Foundations of Yoga series is great because it teaches us alignment and action but leaves the experiment part all up to you! Listen to your body and you can do no wrong. It will grow if you practice. Love, A

  3. Hey there- thank you for your wonderful videos. I feel like I'm finally 'getting' yoga after practicing with you over the past few weeks, and it's so fulfilling.

    I've been working on getting to a place of ease with DD, and I was curious what your thoughts were on practicing DD and other inversions while..aunt flow is in town. I've been looking for poses to help ease cramps and read that inversions weren't great if a woman was on her period, but I can't find the source for why some think this.

  4. Hi Adriene!
    I switched from cardio workouts to yoga a few weeks ago and I love your videos! I am not very stretchy and have had issues with Downward Dog, first I was getting wrist pain but I adjusted my hand placement and fixed that but whenever I stretch my legs to the full DD position (my heels don't quite touch the mat yet) my legs start to get tingly and numb from my hips to my toes haha any tips on how to keep stretching my legs and myself without my toes going numb? I've taken it slower as I have started but I want to keep pushing myself and improving so I will stick with it 🙂 any advice would be awesome! Thanks!

  5. Hi Adriene, I love your messages and videos, and I'm wondering if you have a foundations bit for three-legged dog. Thank you!

  6. This post is so timely!

    I took my first public class in years this past weekend. In that class I found that my DD wasn't as bendy as it usually is (I follow along with your videos daily at home). Concerned that it might be because my form is suffering, just yesterday I looked up your DD tutorial on YouTube. What a coincidence :).

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that your channel is AWESOME and that I would love more inversion/intermediate-level tutorials! I just did your headstand video and have got crow pretty much down now, so I'd love to see more!

  7. Hi,
    I always feel the need to bring my feet closer to my hands in DD because my hands slip. I can't seem to find the right weight distribution. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Nicki,

      I know this question was meant for Adriene but just thought I'd put in my two cents - I'd suggest getting a "sticky" polyurethane mat, like The Mat from Lululemon. It made a world of difference in my practice. I used to slide around during DD no matter what I did too, but then I took a public class in my hometown and the instructor noticed my struggle. She suggested the different mat to me and leant me one during class so I could try it out. With a polyurethane mat you stay steady because it wicks away sweat and really sticks your skin to the surface so you can concentrate on proper form and alignment instead of thinking about not sliding around! Just my experience 🙂 Hope it helps!

  8. Adriene,

    I have just found your videos and I am in love. I feel completely at ease practicing with your videos. THANK YOU!

    I do have a question about downward facing dog. This pose feels so good everywhere but my shoulders. Is this just a lack of strength? I have sort of chronic shoulder pain from stress and sitting at a desk all day. Is there something I can do to ease my shoulders into this pose? Perhaps it just takes time to build up my strength?

    Again. I am so grateful for your videos! Thank you!!

  9. Adriene,

    I'm on day 5 of your "Yoga for Complete Beginners," and I LOVE IT! Around day 3 I noticed improved posture, and just today I noticed less pain in my wrists and arms when in tabletop poses! However, whenever I do any form of Downward Facing Dog my shoulders hurt like the dickens: I have yet to be able to hold it for the length of your explanation, even if I'm finding movement. Do you have any suggestions to help me build up shoulder strength, or is there some kind of variation that would be better for people who experience shoulder pain in Downward Facing Dog?

    Thank you for all you do! I'm a poor grad school student right now, but as soon as I find a spare $10 a month, I'm totally subscribing to your paid videos!!!

  10. I "third" the question about shoulders in DD. I am very heavy and have an injured shoulder so I struggle to stay in the posture. Any modification suggestions? What is the goal/focus of the pose? Thanks for your always amazing videos.

    1. Found this page which was totally helpful. For me, widening the legs was the trick to getting that pelvis up AND relieved the shoulder tension. It actually felt like a resting pose!

  11. Downward dog slippage... i have purchased a few "non-slip" yoga mats and my hands keep slipping. I have become increasingly frustrated and am constantly chanting "I accept" my hands slipping but the slipping continues and I'm no less frustrated... ugh, I really dislike this feeling and want to continue with my practice as I has been going so well.

  12. Pull the tailbone up, pedal it out, pressing into all areas of the palm...these are the instructions that helped me finally achieve this pose! Really great teaching skills...very clear and detailed explanation. Thank you Adriene!

  13. Hello Adriene, I am 7 classes into yoga and this is such a hard pose for me. It is so difficult and kills my arms and wrists. I must add that I am obese and while I couldn't do one during my first class but I am getting close do doing all three during our class. Any suggestions on how to keep them from hurting my arms and wrists so bad? TIA

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