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Down Dog

adho mukha svanasana


Back-body stretch: Downward Dog provides a stretch to the entire back side of the body, including the hamstrings, calves, back, and shoulders. Energising and invigorating: Downward Dog is often used as a transitional pose or as part of a dynamic sequence. It can help awaken the body and mind, promoting a sense of alertness, focus, and energy. Strengthening the core: Downward Dog engages the core muscles, including the abdominal muscles and deep stabilising muscles of the torso. Regular practice can help build core strength and stability, supporting better posture and overall strength. Improving shoulder stability: The pose strengthens the muscles around the shoulder girdle, including the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles. This can enhance shoulder stability and reduce the risk of injuries in the shoulder region.



Wrist or shoulder injuries: Individuals with acute or chronic wrist or shoulder injuries should approach Down Dog with caution. The pose puts weight on the wrists and requires shoulder mobility and stability. If you have any pain, discomfort, or limitations in these areas, it's important to modify the pose or avoid it until you have recovered. High blood pressure: Down Dog is an inversion that temporarily increases blood pressure in the head and upper body. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or hypertension, it's advisable to avoid or modify the pose. You can use props to elevate the head and reduce the intensity of the inversion. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome or similar conditions that affect the wrists and hands may find the prolonged weight-bearing on the hands in Down Dog uncomfortable or aggravating. Modifying the pose by using props or reducing the weight on the hands can be helpful. Pregnancy: In the later stages of pregnancy, the belly may limit the ability to come into a full Down Dog comfortably. Retinal conditions or glaucoma: Some sources suggest that individuals with retinal conditions or advanced stages of glaucoma should avoid inversions, including Down Dog, due to the potential increase in intraocular pressure. However, others believe that the short duration of the pose may not have a significant impact. It's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about the pose's effect on eye pressure.



Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana): Start on your hands and knees, and alternate between arching your back upwards (Cow Pose) and rounding your back downwards (Cat Pose). This sequence helps warm up the spine and gently stretch the back muscles. Child's Pose (Balasana): From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels and lower your forehead to the ground. Extend your arms forward or alongside your body. Child's Pose helps stretch the lower back, hips, and shoulders, preparing them for Downward Dog. Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana): Begin in a tabletop position with your hips stacked over your knees. Walk your hands forward while keeping your hips above your knees, and lower your chest and forehead towards the ground. Puppy Pose helps open the shoulders and lengthen the spine. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Stand, feet around hip-width apart, fold forward at the hips, and let your upper body hang. Bend your knees slightly if needed. This pose stretches the hamstrings and calves, preparing them for the similar stretch in Downward Dog. Plank Pose: From a push-up position, align your wrists approximately under your shoulders and engage your core muscles. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels. Plank Pose builds upper body strength and prepares the core and arms for the weight-bearing aspect of Downward Dog.


Cue In

1 - Start on hands and knees, in a table top position. 2 - Spread fingers, weight evenly distributed through hands. 3 - Tuck toes, lift hips up, and create an inverted "V" shape with the body. 4 - Work to extend knees whilst maintaining length through the spine. 5 - Heels reach toward the ground. 6 - Keep pressing the floor away staying strong through the arms and shoulders. 7 - Relax the neck, let the head hang. "Spread your fingers and press your palms firmly into the ground." "Ground down through the knuckles of your index finger and thumb." "Maintain a long spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head." "Imagine a straight line extending from your sit bones to crown of head." "Create space between each vertebra by gently lengthening your spine." “Play around with the tilt of the pelvis until you find a position your spine can grow long from” “Keep your neck relaxed, allowing your head to hang naturally between your upper arms." "Keep your knees slightly bent to maintain a softness in the legs." "Press your heels down towards the ground without losing length in spine.” "Engage your quadriceps by gently lifting your kneecaps upward."



Hip positioning: Check that the student's hips are lifting upward and back, creating an inverted "V" shape. If their hips are too high or low, you can provide gentle guidance to help them find the optimal alignment. Leg alignment: If their hamstrings are tight, you can slightly bend their knees by pressing into the back of them, to maintain a more comfortable position. Spine lengthening: Encourage the student to lengthen their spine, imagining a straight line from the tailbone to the crown of the head. You can gently press on their hips or shoulders to help them elongate their spine. Foot positioning: You can gently encourage the students heels to draw down toward the floor by using your hands to action them down.


Counter Poses

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) or Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Lie on your stomach with your hands placed underneath your shoulders. Press your palms into the ground, lift your chest, and lengthen your spine. Cobra Pose helps reverse the forward-bending motion of Down Dog, whilst opening the chest and strengthening the back muscles. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Stand with your feet hip-width apart, fold forward at the hips, and let your upper body hang. Whilst this pose still lengthens the back body, the weight is off from the hands provides rest for the arms and shoulders. You could interlace the arms behind the back to further counter the shoulder position off Down Dog. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana): Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Press your feet into the ground, lift your hips, and interlace your hands beneath you. Bridge Pose opens the chest, stretches the front of the body, and can help alleviate any compression in the shoulders and wrists from Downward Dog.


"See the variations,
simple to complex
Explore different entries from: 1 - Table Top, tuck toes lift hips. 2 - Plank, pike hips high. 3 - Standing fold, step/hop back or walk the hands forward. 4 - A seated twist, spiral behind into Down Dog Play with different widths and depths of hands / feet. (Narrow Dog / Long Dog) Pedalling legs, rotating pelvis, twisting or side ending torso. Bent arms (Turbo Down Dog) Bent legs (Down Dog Squats) Challenge stability by removing a point of contact with the floor. One arm, thread through twist variation or 3 Legged dog variations. Try 2 point contact by removing one arm and one leg, even adding a foot hold.
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