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An Easy Guide to the Downward-Facing Dog Variations
With so many yoga poses out there, it can be a little challenging to memorize them all. But some of them have become so famous that if you think of yoga, you easily think of them. The Downward-facing Dog pose is most probably one of those.
What is a Downward-Facing Dog?
The Downward-Facing Dog, also known as Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is a common yoga pose in asanas. It might appear a bit challenging to newbies but it eventually becomes a favorite pose for relaxation. It’s one of the most recognized poses of all time and for many good reasons.
The Downward-facing Dog is a great stretch that engages the hands, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and feet. Doing this pose regularly provides benefits for both physical and mental health.
What are the benefits of doing the Downward-Facing Dog pose?
- It opens up and expands the chest while also strengthening the respiratory system.
- It increases blood circulation and cleanses the body by getting rid of old waste.
- It gently builds muscles in the shoulders, arms, abdominal region, thighs, and calves.
- It stretches the spinal column which is essential in promoting a smooth flow of nerve and energy between the body and the brain. It also improves posture.
- It releases tension and tightness in the body by properly elongating the muscles along the back of the legs.
- It develops fast feet because it strengthens the stabilizing muscles in the foot.
Cautions of doing the Downward-Facing Dog Pose
If you have a shoulder or wrist injury, be careful in doing the Downward Dog (if you can’t avoid doing it at all). You can also modify the pose with added support to the head in form of blankets or bolsters if you’re currently experiencing a headache or high blood pressure.
How to do the Downward-Facing Dog
Time to grab your yoga mat and follow the step-by-step guide below to do the Downward Dog pose:
- Start on a tabletop position on the mat with your hands and knees on the floor. Hands must be about 3 inches ahead of your shoulders and a shoulder-width apart. Keep your wrist lines aligned to each other so they are parallel to the mat’s front edge.
- Press down on the mat with your fingertips to pull your forearms forward. Make sure that your knuckles are grounded as you do this.
- Twist your biceps forward as you keep your triceps firmed to your midline.
- Inhale deeply while tucking your toes under before exhaling and pulling your hips back and up.
- Keep your feet parallel while also being a hip-width apart.
- To avoid tension in the neck, let your head hang. Fixate your gaze on your feet.
- Spin your shoulder blades outward and upward, away from your spine. This is to keep the articulation of your shoulders’ bones and the space at your neck’s base.
- If your lower back is a little bit curved or rounded, better bend your knees to press your sitting bones straight back and up.
- With every inhalation bring your hips back and up even more. With every exhalation, press down firmly through your hands.
- Hold the posture for a few minutes or a few rounds of breaths before releasing.
Preparatory yoga poses for Downward-Facing Dog
It might not be easy to start with Downward Dog right away so there are certain poses that you can do first to get you in the right execution.
The Plank Pose or Phalakasana is often used as a transitional pose to help prepare your body for more intense poses. Doing this pose involves holding the body in a plank-like position that will keep your spine lengthened and your arms engaged. Core and shoulder muscles are essential to make this work and it’s an ideal way to tone your body.
Standing Forward Bend Pose
The Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana is a posture that starts from a Mountain Pose and ends up bending the upper body forward with the arms outstretched until the hands touch the feet. With constant practice, some even touch the back of the heels of their feet during the stretch.
8 Downward-Facing Dog Variations
Maybe you have mastered the art of the Downward-Facing Dog Pose, but that doesn’t mean that it’s over. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways you can make this pose more interesting, challenging, and fun. There are variations of the Downward-Facing Dog that you can try out and master as well!
Check them out below:
1. Single Leg Downward Dog
This Downward Dog variation is commonly used as a transitional pose in Vinyasa Flow. It’s also called Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog.
- Start by being in a Downward Dog position. Then, press down on your left foot while raising your right heel. Keep your right leg strong and engaged as you continue to lift it.
- The left heel must be pressed down into the mat. Point or flex through your right foot’s toes.
- Bring your gaze down to the space between your arms or toward the back of the room.
- Switch sides and repeat the steps.
2. One-arm Downward Dog
If you’re looking for a great workout to strengthen your core and arm muscles, then this is the one.
- Start on an all-fours position with hands and knees on the mat.
- Stretch out your right arm in front of you with the palm facing inward.
- Then, inhale and tuck your toes as you press your hips back and up and go into a full downward dog position.
- After a few breaths, repeat the same thing on the other side.
3. Puppy Pose
The name of this pose was thought of because doing it makes you look like—you guessed it—a puppy. this variation is a great alternative to the original Downward-Facing Dog if you’re looking for a more restorative pose. This is a great opener for the shoulders, spine, back, and abs.
- Begin by being in a tabletop position. Walk your hands forward and draw your ribs in toward your back body instead of lowering down your belly.
- Rest your forehead on the mat but keep your forearms lifted from it.
- Press down on your toes as you keep your hips above your knees. Make sure that your thighs are straightened.
- If you desire to go lower, gently drop your chest to the ground and allow your arms to rest on the floor with the palms of your hands facing inward.
- To make things more comfortable for your neck, feel free to rest on your chin.
4. Figure Four Down Dog
This variation may look a little more complicated but it’s definitely a great hip-opener. It also strengthens the core and prepares your body if you’re about to do the Flying Pigeon Pose.
- Start with a Downward-Facing Dog position. Then, place your right foot’s ankle at the top of your left thigh. Your bent right knee must be pointing outward on the side, making it look like a number four-figure.
- Maintain your hips lifted while spreading your sitting bones high. Lift your left foot’s heel.
- While exhaling, press your chest down toward your thighs.
- Do the same on the other side.
5. Dolphin Pose
This alternative is a great way to fully open and strengthen the body. If you have sensitive or sore wrists, you can do this instead of the normal Downward Dog.
- By starting in an all-fours position, lower your forearms to the floor. Keep your arms a shoulder-width distance apart.
- Form a narrower distance between your elbows. Turn your palms slightly outward.
- Tuck the toes of your feet as you press your hips back and up. Try to spread your shoulder blades wider while tightening your forearms.
- Press on your inner wrists.
6. Scorpion Dog
Also known as the Three-legged Dog Stretch, this is an ideal hip-opener and a preparatory pose for deeper postures like the Pigeon pose.
- Start with a Downward-Facing Dog position. Inhale as you raise your right leg high and then bend your top leg as you exhale.
- As much as possible, do your best to keep your shoulders square to the floor.
- If you want to make it more challenging, reach out for the inner arch of your lifted leg with your left hand.
7. Twisted Downward Dog
This pose is great for making your body feel a little more energized. It’s also referred to as the Down Dog Twist or Revolved Downward-Facing Dog.
- Begin in a Downward Dog position. Walk your feet closer to your hands to shorten the stance.
- Bend your right knee and place your left hand on the outside of your right leg to form a twist. Feel free to grab any part of that leg that’s comfortable enough for you.
- Repeat the steps on the other side.
8. One-arm One-leg Downward Dog
Given its other name, the Balancing Downward Dog, this posture will surely test your ability to balance. It’s for improving core stability and strength while engaging your arm muscles.
- Start with a Downward-Facing Dog. Then, keep your feet together before extending your right leg back.
- Draw in your belly before reaching back with your left arm on the side of your body. Keep your midsection strong as you breathe.
- Then, switch sides and do the same thing.
Note: For newbie students, make sure to seek the guidance of a yoga teacher to guide you to the proper execution of these Downward Dog variations.
Follow-up poses after doing the Downward Dog
Here are the poses that you can execute after the Downward-Facing Dog:
- Standing Poses
- Standing Forward Bend Pose
Yoga classes that include the Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Here are the following yoga classes that include the Downward Dog in their sequences:
- Hatha Yoga – This is the general term for yoga that involves 45 to 90-minute classes filled with yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. (If you want to take a Hatha Yoga class, click: Hatha Yoga Singapore.)
- Vinyasa Yoga – This is a more intense type of yoga where you do a series of movements at a continuous pace. It improves stamina, endurance, ability to focus, and many more. (To find a studio that offers Vinyasa classes, refer to Vinyasa yoga classes near me)