Yoga Pose of the Week – Downward Facing Dog

In this series yoga teacher Neelam Saney will guide us through a different yoga pose each week. Asana means yoga pose in Sanskrit so this feature is for those of you who are interested in yoga and want to make sure that you are actually doing the pose correctly. She demonstrates a step by step procedure of getting into the full pose with details on proper alignment. Neelam owns and runs “Yoga with Neelam” where she teaches private and group classes, specializing in postural corrections, weight loss and muscle toning.

This week the chosen pose is…Adho Mukha Svanasana… also known as Downward Facing Dog!  Check out the video below.

Downward facing dog is a basic pose that is accessible to most beginners, for advanced practitioners this posture is considered a resting pose! In setting up the pose make sure your arms are shoulder distance apart and your knees are hip distance apart, tuck you toes under and actively push your hands and feet into the mat. Straighten your legs and push your hips upwards as your back cascades downwards.

There are 3 stages of advancement of reaching the full pose: straight arms, straight back and straight legs. Take each stage as a prerequisite to move on to the next; there is no point trying to straighten your legs if your elbows are bent and your back is rounded. If you feel tired do not compromise the posture by bending your arms and hunching your shoulders forwards, instead feel free to bend your knees and allow your back to lengthen further. Push your hands down into the mat with your fingers spread apart, engage your arms by keeping them straight and squeezing your biceps closer towards your ears, consciously trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together between your upper back. You should feel an even lengthening throughout your spine, from your tailbone down to your neck.

From my classes, I’ve often seen students put a lot of weight on their arms and not enough in their legs. Pay attention to pushing your thighs back which would slowly start to lengthen tight hamstrings. Feel your hips rising higher and you push deeper with your arms and your legs.

Hold the pose for 10 deep breaths, as you inhale feel your abdomen inflating out and when exhaling draw your core towards the back of your body. This technique is invigorating and gradually increases your lung capacity. With each inhalation focus on strengthening your arms and legs and with each exhalation concentrate on lengthening your back; reaching your hips higher and allowing your head to inch closer towards the floor.

When you are ready to come out of the pose engage your core to slowly bend your knees down to the mat. Now that you know what to do and how to do it, respect your body and enjoy your practice!

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