Downward-facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana as it’s called in Sanskrit, just might be the most famous yoga pose of all. I sometimes call it the all-in-one pose because the benefits are so wide-ranging when it’s practiced mindfully:
Elongates and releases tension from your spine
Opens the hips and shoulders
Stretches hamstrings, calves, arches, hands
Strengthens arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, abdominals
Relieves back pain, headaches, insomnia, and fatigue
As a mild inversion it calms the nervous system and relieves stress.
To make the most of downward-facing dog, you also need to learn what your limits are (just like it says in the waiver that you signed). Don’t wait for something to “snap” before backing off. Your best guides are:
Your breath: If you can’t breathe comfortably (slowly and evenly) in a pose, you are not ready for it.
Your body: If you feel pain, come out of the pose. Don’t suffer in silence. You should tell your teacher exactly where and when you felt the pain. Yoga teachers help those who help themselves.
Your yoga teacher’s feedback: Listen to your teacher (unless it conflicts with one of the other two guides). And feel free to ask for a second opinion.
If downward-facing dog is not currently part of your yoga practice, don’t rush. It will still be there when you are ready. If you’re already practicing this pose, reassess whether you really enjoy it. If not, maybe you need more time preparing. Or you can try adding some downward dog alternatives to your yoga practice.
Downward-facing dog is a wonderful pose. Yes, it can be bad for you, but it doesn’t have to be. Done correctly, downward dog will bring many benefits to your yoga practice and to your life.
Video credits: Sanjana M
Studio: Future School Of performing Arts.
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