SACREDspace Yoga :: Pose of the Month :: March 2011

Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog

An inversion pose such as the downward facing dog causes a temporary increase in blood circulation to the head. This increased blood flow triggers the body's calming mechanism, which slows the heart rate and respiration. Initiate the downward dog by balancing with your hands and knees on the ground. Your knees should be directly underneath your hips, while your  hands should sit just in front of your shoulders. On an inhale, straighten your legs and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Allow your entire body to stretch away from the ground; your body should look like a triangle. Hold the pose for one to three minutes.

 

The Practice

The preparatory position is with the hands and knees on the floor, hands under the shoulders, fingers spread wide, knees under the hips and typically about seven inches (17 cm) apart, with the spine straightened and relaxed.

 

On a deep exhale, the hips are pushed toward the ceiling, the body forming an inverted V-shape, with an arch in the back. The legs and arms are straight, the elbows engaged, the shoulders wide and relaxed. The heels move toward the floor. The hands and feet remain hip-width apart. If the hamstrings are very strong or tight, the knees are bent to allow the spine to lengthen fully.

 

Stress on the wrists is reduced by pressing down with the fingers and borders of the palms, and pushing the hips up and backwards. The head drops slightly. The heart moves toward the back.


The hips move up and back. Focus is on the breath while holding the posture, with deep, steady inhalation and exhalation creating a flow of energy through the body. On an exhale, the practitioner releases onto the hands and knees and rests.

 

BKS Iyengar asserts that this posture stretches the shoulders, legs, spine and whole body; builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet; relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the body; improves the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses, and calms the mind and lifts the spirits.


This posture is not recommended if the wrists are sensitive or injured. A modified posture may be appropriate, such as placing the hands against a wall rather than the floor.

 

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