Finding peace in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog)
I don’t remember much about the first few times I practiced yoga. I can’t recall the name of the teacher, I vaguely recall the interior of the studio, and I couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed most about yoga in the early days of my practice. I can remember how I felt about “Downward Dog”. Every time we came to Downward Facing dog my arms screamed, my shoulders burned, and my hands ached. I couldn’t believe the instructor felt this was a “resting” pose. I literally cringed each time we came back to the posture. I counted down the minutes until we were seated on the floor and this posture was finished for the day’s practice.
Over time I learned proper alignment and found the “rest” within the posture. Now it is one of my favorite poses as I have learned to open, relax, and expand into the pose. As an instructor, I find this posture seems to challenge students a LOT. There is a lot of struggle in the beginning for many students as they learn to lift the hips and bring the weigh out of the wrists. I even find many advanced and seasoned practitioners struggle with proper rotation of the shoulders and grounding through the hands so I thought it may be helpful to write a post with some helpful tips for coming into a comfortable dog.
* The first thing to keep in mind when practicing this posture is the position of the hands. Align your hands shoulder distance apart and make sure the feet are hip distance apart.
* Ground through your hands. Connect all of your joints of your fingers and the palm evenly into the earth. This grounding will help you prevent pain in the wrist and fingers.
* Lift the pelvis and draw your hips back. The hips will remain high and the heels may or may not touch the ground. You can keep a bend in the knees if it is helpful in lifting the hips and creating space in the back body.
* Press into the hands and reach the hips back from the top of the thighs. If the heels don’t touch the ground visualize them grounding and reaching towards the earth. This will begin to distribute the weight out of the wrists and back towards the legs.
* Don’t forget to pay attention to the rotation of the arms. Allow the shoulders to broaden and move onto the back body. Tone the muscles of the arms.
*Finally allow the head to soften and lengthen the neck.