Yogis know that the Downward Facing Dog is one of the most basic and essential poses in all yoga disciplines. Most people consider this to be one of the quintessential yoga poses for beginners. When you first started your yoga practice, you probably spent a lot of time focusing on the proper alignment and shape of this extremely basic asana. Sometimes, that attention to detail can be lost in the years and months of a developing yoga practice.
It’s time to get back to the basics and take a closer look at how you can better align your Downward Facing Dog pose.
Hands and Feet Should Be the Proper Distance Apart
Placing your hands and feet properly in a Downward Facing Dog is essential to prevent too much strain on your joints. Your hands should always be shoulder’s distance apart, and your feet should be hip’s distance apart. Both the hands and the feet should be parallel to the long side of your mat. The weight should be pressing equally into each finger of the hand and each toe of the foot. This prevents you from putting too much strain on the joints and allows you to experience a more satisfying Downward Facing Dog.
Don’t Let Your Head Hang
Allowing the head to simply hang in space might feel good for a moment, but you can actually damage the spine this way long-term. Allow the neck to become a natural extension of the spine, keeping the head in line with the rest of the body. It should fall somewhere close to the space between the upper arms depending on your body build. The ears will usually be in line with the arms. This should allow you to look at the feet or possibly between the knees.
Keep a Firm Core
When your arms and legs are working hard in this asana, it’s tempting to let your core muscles have a rest. However, the core muscles are essential to relieving the tension and pressure on your wrists. Be sure to keep the lower belly drawn in and the core muscles activated.
Bend the Knees to Tilt the Pelvis
Getting the straight alignment of the spine is more important than reaching your heels completely to the floor. Be sure to bend the knees to obtain the much-needed tilt in the pelvis that allows your spine to become long in the Downward Facing Dog. Once your back is straight and properly aligned, then you can begin reaching the heels down toward the floor for a better hamstring stretch. This can also help to relieve some of the pressure from the wrists
Obtaining the perfect alignment in your Downward Facing Dog is essential to maintaining a long and healthy practice over the years. Next time you move through a series of Sun Salutations, take a moment to pause in this essential pose. Think about your alignment and make any necessary adjustments so that you can enjoy the strength and feeling of this pose completely.