When we think yoga, more often than not we think of the downward facing dog.

This is the most recognised yoga pose and one that you hold and move through multiple times during a class.

Ahdo Mukha Svanasana (Down Facing Dog).

The down facing dog. Its very ubiquity makes one think that it must be a beginner pose. In fact, it is one of the hardest poses in yoga to master. If your alignment is off, you could very easily hurt yourself.

How do I know if I am doing this pose correctly?

It should feel like it is lengthening your entire front and back body, with the weight shifting back into the legs, in order to free the shoulders!

To deepen the pose, lift your heels away from the floor, move your inner groins into your pelvis, moving them upwards and actively away from your heels. Then lengthen your inner heels back and down.

Downward facing dog is excellent for lengthening the connective tissues around the shoulders and backs of the legs and for building strength.

Beginners Tip:  If you cannot feel the ‘rest’ element of this pose yet, try raising your hands on blocks.

If you’d like to know more about achieving the downward facing dog successfully, see here.

I find this pose hard, how can I improve?

As we continue to lead sedentary lifestyles, we notice our flexibility reduces, especially in the lower back and the hamstrings.

This tightness throughout our pelvis and lower body can prevent us from finding the length needed within the back of the legs, hamstrings and the calves, to perform downward facing dog correctly.

The Puppy Pose

It’s important to correct your pose rather than persevere and fight against the pose. The Puppy Pose ( or Uttana Shishosana) is a great way to find better length through the body and helps to open up through the shoulders.

side view of young woman practicing yoga in Extended Puppy (Uttana Shishosana) pose in front of wall covered with green leaves. This pose is related to the downward facing dog pose

How to puppy pose:

  • Come to all fours towards the back of your mat—knees are hip-width apart, toes point straight back.
  • Then walk your hands forwards as far as you can and rest your forehead on the mat.
  • Draw your hips back as you reach your fingertips forward, to feel a nice long stretch in the arms, shoulders, lats and spine.
  • Then rotate your upper arms outward to feel a broadening across your upper back. Draw your abs in.

As you draw your hips back, try to keep them roughly above your knees so that you’re not dropping back into Extended Child’s pose (see below) and losing spinal extension at your lower back. Breathe in and out through your nose.

woman practising yoga (extended child pose) outside on the grass

Mastering the basics of yoga is for the patient and willing.

Regardless of your experience or inexperience, each pose is an ever evolving and continuous journey to improve upon and deepen into your practice, physically emotionally or spiritually.

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