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Posted by on Jan 7, 2017

21-Day Back to the Mat Challenge: Day Eight. Down Dog

21-Day Back to the Mat Challenge: Day Eight. Down Dog

Welcome to Day Eight. Today we’ll delve into Downward-Facing Dog. Adho Mukha Svanasana.

It is rare to find a yoga practice without a Downward dog in it and yet it is not often examined in detail. Today, we will break it down.

Some styles focus on pressing the heels all the way down to the mat, today, however, we’d like to focus on using Downward Dog to find length in the spine. Let’s start from the foundation with some subtle alignment points that can help make this happen:

  • Your hands and feet are the foundation of this pose, they should be grounded firmly into the mat
  • Hands shoulder-width apart, or wider if you have tight shoulders
  • Widen your fingers, pressing evenly through the bases of your fingers
  • Keep the creases of your wrists parallel to the front of the mat
  • NOTE: If you experience wrist pain in this pose, lengthen the distance from your hands to your feet, thus smoothing the creases of the wrists
  • For most practices, the proper distance from hands to feet in Downward Dog is the same as it is for Plank Pose (to check your distance, glide forward to plank, if you have to scootch your feet back, make that adjustment and then keep your hands and feet at this new distance as you move back into Downward Dog)
  • Feet hips-width apart, or slightly wider if you have tight hamstrings
  • Bend your knees slightly as you exaggerate the natural curve of your spine (i.e. stick your butt out)
  • Energetically lift through the muscles of your legs and your pelvic floor
  • Firm your outer thighs and roll the inner thighs slightly inward and back
  • Engage your abdominal muscles as you begin to straighten your legs (keeping some of your low-back curve)
  • Engage your shoulder blades firmly onto your back, then widen them and draw them toward your tailbone
  • Roll your upper arms outward (this might feel awkward upside down, but imagine how your upper arms would move if you were standing and exclaiming “How wonderful!”)
  • Let your neck be equally long on all sides
  • Align the crown of your head with the natural line of your spine – think about aligning your ears with your upper arms
  • Breathe

For today’s practice, fold forward on your last exhaling Sun Breath, then step back into Downward-Facing Dog. Enjoy Down Dog for several breaths before lowering down to a comfortable seated position and lowering into Savasana.

Here is today’s complete practice:

  • Take a comfortable seat
  • Close your eyes, Bring your attention inward
  • Inhale, lengthen the spine, Exhale, keep that length
  • Notice deeply
  • Continue in this way for 10 or 20 breaths
  • Open your eyes and move to a kneeling position (sit back on your heels)
  • Perform Kapalabhati for 20-50 breaths, Repeat (as you like)
  • Come to Child’s pose, enjoy the effects of Kapalabhati
  • Come up to Table, then move with breath:  Table > Down Dog > Table > Child’s Pose…
    Repeat Five times (or as many or few times as you like)
  • Balancing Table (both sides)
  • Lower arm/leg back to Table
  • Exhale as you Push back to Downward Facing Dog
  • Inhale, Step forward to Standing Forward Fold
  • Exhale here
  • Inhale up to Tadasana, Mountain Pose
  • Sun Salutation (both sides)
  • Tadasana
  • Close your eyes, bring your hands together in Prayer Pose, Anjali Mudra, at the center of your chest
  • Breathe
  • Uttanasana, Standing Forward Fold
  • Sun Breaths
  • Step back to Downward-Facing Dog
  • Lower down to a comfortable sitting position
  • Lie back into Savasana