If you have time for only one yoga pose a day, practice Savasana. But, if you can squeeze one more in, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog pose). Most people can benefit from the wonderful effects of this pose. Whether you need a lengthener for the hamstrings, a release for the back, strengthening for the core or a change in perspective, this pose offers something for everyone.
The biggest modification most of us need in Adho Mukha Svanasana (“AMS”) is simply to slow down the process of coming into the pose. Try the following sequence, taking four breaths to come fully into the AMS.
Begin in table. Inhale deeply, then as you exhale, round the back and lift the knees a few inches off the ground.
Take one complete breath as you hover there.
On your next inhale lengthen the legs, but keep the shoulders over the wrists and remain on the balls of the feet. Exhale and inhale there.
Finally, exhale as you tilt the pelvis forward, lengthen the spine and let the heels descend toward the ground, coming fully into the pose.
Here is a demonstration (notice – I spent nearly 30 seconds just to come into the pose!).
Once in the pose, play! You don’t have to try each of these things every time you practice it, but explore these modifications in AMS from time to time:
1. Increase the space between your feet. If you have trouble tilting the pelvis forward, take your feet wider apart.
2. Play with the space between your hands and feet. The closer the feet are to the hands, the more intense the pose is for the backs of the legs. The further the feet are from the hands, the more intense the pose is for the upper body.
3. Focus on bringing a slight inward rotation to the thighs (imagine squeezing a block placed between the thighs backwards, toward the wall behind you).
4. Lengthen the spine by pressing the shoulders and arms toward the floor as you reach the pelvis up and away from the shoulders.
5. Bring your attention to the shoulder blades. Allow the outside edge of the shoulder blades to rotate up toward the hands as the inside edge rotates downward toward the pelvis.
6. Notice where your head is. Be sure that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine.
Take five to eight breaths in the pose before releasing to Balasana (child’s pose). Repeat as desired.
After you’ve tried this, please comment below to let me know what you think! Enjoy!
P.S. This is the first in a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for subsequent posts in this series.