How To Have A Solid Downward Facing Dog

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

It’s one of the most common and simple looking poses in the yoga world.

Yet, to understand it properly, it’s more complex and more challenging when you’re just starting out.

When I first started out, I took this pose for granted. 

It’s used a lot as a transition or as a relaxing pose. A break in the sequence. I thought this pose was easy.

It really isn’t!

So, this little post in the yoga poses sequence will focus on the downward facing dog.

Areas targeted

The downward facing dog is a great back body strengthener and a great pose to see how the legs and the arms can effect the spine.

Muscles that are worked include...

  • Shoulders

  • Lats

  • Glutes

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves

  • Triceps

  • Obliques

  • Quads

  • Soles of your feet

It’s important as a beginner to learn this pose, as it's foundational (by that I mean used often and so many knock on benefits to other poses) and it’s easy to do wrong. Being aware of the areas that can go wrong will hopefully help you correct them and reap the many benefits this pose has to offer.

Speaking of which, benefits include...

  • Stronger arms and shoulders

  • Significant increase in relative strength

  • Tones the front and side abs

  • Lengthens the back of your legs

  • Increased blood flow to the brain

  • Strengthens the spinal extensors

  • Energises the body

Limitations that could hold you back

There are many limitations in the body that can make this pose more challenging. There are ways to modify the pose to make it more comfortable so be aware of them and how to fix them.

  • Difficulty opening shoulders - If this is the case, raise your hands by placing them on some blocks. 

  • Can’t get heels to the floor - Bend your knees

  • The back bends - It’s imperative you keep your back straight so bend your knees if you feel your back is bending.

The mistake I made with this pose it’s thinking it’s more important to focus on the hamstrings as a priority. It’s not, the priority is a straight spine so don’t push your straight legs to the floor as much as you can and sacrifice a bent back.

Steps and variations toward a solid downward dog

  1. Come into a table top position, with your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. 

  2. On an exhale, lift your knees away from the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent to begin with and start to point your bum to the ceiling, with the pelvis in an anterior tilt. Draw your inner legs into the groin from your ankles

  3. Push your thighs back and start to push your heels down to the floor and be sure to not lock the knees out. (Be mindful of what effect this is having on your back. If it’s rounding, bend the knees so you can straighten it).

  4. Start to create firmness in your arms and press the weight actively into the floor from your inner hands. Lift your inner arms from the wrists and into your shoulders. Firm the shoulders blades and keep them wide. Keep your head between your arms.

  5. To come out of the pose, bend your knees. You could even take Childs pose from this pose.

Work your way upto 1-3 minutes.

How to make it more challenging

You can make this more challenging by taking an arm away from the floor and to the side of your body or even lifting one leg up away from the floor and a straight line from your heel down to your shoulder.

Give this a go and let me know how you get on. It’s an incredible pose for creating strength in the back body!

In a bit.

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