Decoding Down Dog
Making friends with downward facing dog can be a long process when beginning a physical yoga practice. Yoga teachers instruct us to find balance in effort and ease, yet that experience scale leans more toward effort at first.
Here are some alignment tips for DD.
Maintaining your lumbar curve is priority over straight legs.
It is helpful to be guided by a seasoned teacher who treats DownDog as an apex pose and prepares for it with mobility conditioning of the hamstrings, spine, chest and shoulders.
It is always important to stay mindful of any specific considerations or modifications needed during practice due to injury, illness or dis-ease.
Hamstring preparation and mobility is essential to refrain from compensation patterns in the lower back. For the majority of us who are not naturally hyper-mobile or very flexible, we generally reach the edge of our hamstring mobility before the knee is fully extended meaning our leg is not straight yet.
Our competitive mind then pushes us to make our bodies match the straight legs we see on other mats or conform to the mental image of the pose we are attached to expressing.
Bend your knees generously as you reach through your arms forward toward the top of your mat which will send lifting energy back up the spine adding a buoyancy to the hips and a supportive foundation in the feet and legs. Maintaining your lumbar curve is priority over straight legs. If straight legs is the expression of Down Dog you’re going for, then focus on hamstring mobility and bend those knees to get out of the lower back into those hammys!
Flipping Downward Dog into ‘Wild Thing’ is frequently integrated into yoga classes nowadays.
- stretch your right leg high and roll the hip laterally open in external rotation bending the knee drawing your heel toward your glute
- now lift high on your standing left toes and pivot on your back foot while leading with the extended leg to step off the wide right edge of the mat while rooting through your left supporting arm
- Right arm stretches overhead toward the top of the mat
- coming back root through your left foot and bring your right hand back to mat followed by your right leg back to Downward Dog
- Repeat on left side
Advanced Pose! Beginners Caution
Contraindications: Any shoulder injury; particularly rotator cuff, hip injury
In Downward Dog, BEND those knees to get out of the lower back into those hammys!