When I first started yoga, I strongly disliked downward facing dog pose. I mean, like, for reals! I found it difficult to sustain for long periods (which equated to a few breaths), and I certainly did not find it restful. A coworker once told me that she used to feel the same way, but over the years, she grew to love it and found it relaxing.
I swore I would never love downward facing dog!
But I’ve gotta tell ya. She was right. All these years later, I do love downward facing dog. I find it simultaneously invigorating and relaxing. And I think it’s one of the best poses to build and sustain shoulder strength (because you’ve gotta have some shoulder strength to maintain this pose for any length of time). It’s also one of the best poses to return to when you’re needing a moment to breathe.
Aside from the awesome upper body strengthening, downward dog has lots of stretching benefits. These include stretching the back, the chest, the shoulders, the hamstrings, the calves, and the Achilles tendons!
Steps to Master Downward Facing Dog Pose:
- Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Check to see that your hips are directly over your knees and your knees are hip width apart. Your palms should be slightly forward of your shoulders, shoulders width apart.
- Tuck your toes under.
- Spread your fingers wide.
- On an exhale, push into your hands and feet. Lift your knees away from the floor, and lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling. At first, keep your knees bent and the heels of your feet away from the floor.
- Continue pushing into your hands to maintain the evenness of the pose.
- After a few breathes, slowly start to straighten your knees (careful not to lock them) and lower your heels toward the floor. Your knees may not straighten completely, and your heels may not reach the floor. This is all okay! Don’t push yourself too hard. With practice, you’ll get there one day.
- Hold this pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.