In this practice, we take a look at downward facing dog and break it down into its component parts: upper body and core work, and hip flexion and opening the backs of the legs. When I started practicing yoga – I hated this pose. But several years later, I’ve learned to love the challenge of downward dog. Maybe you will, too?
When I started practicing, my upper body was not as strong as it is today. When I came into downward dog, I felt my weight “dumping” forward into my shoulders. I struggled to support myself, and downward dog was extremely uncomfortable. The first thing I had to learn was that it’s OKAY to rest. I didn’t have to stay in downward dog as long as everyone else in the room. Once I gave myself permission to rest, I could move on to the next step, building strength.
Downward facing dog is an inversion, meaning that your head is below your heart. It’s not as intense as handstand but it puts a lot of weight and stress on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. These joints, generally speaking, are not used to supporting our full body weight – so it’s going to take some time to build muscle strength and endurance. Our Handstand Prep practice from a few weeks ago is a great way to begin that process! Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy solutions for the upper body in downward dog. It takes time and practice – but that’s the fun part!
Just like child’s pose, downward dog is a forward fold. Tight hips and/or hamstrings can definitely present a challenge – but so can a larger body.
One of the first things we need to do is make room for ourselves in the downward facing dog. Take the feet/legs as wide as you need to accommodate your body. This is a quick and easy fix that can instantly improve your experience in downward dog.
In this practice, we begin by gently warming up the body and then exploring the upper body components of downward dog. Afterwards, we work on opening up the hips, thighs, and hamstrings, as we move on to explore the downward dog in the lower body. Using blocks and/or a chair can help us to shift our weight back into our heels and give us some relief in the upper body. As always, you may want to have some water or a towel available, too.
So, what do you think of this practice? What went well for you? What didn’t go so well? What can I do to better support your practice?