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Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
With Dr Kiki Morriss
Throughout 2022, OM is exploring all the key poses that make up the Sun Salutation, yoga’s most familiar and graceful sequence. By Dr Kiki Morriss
Sun Salutation 2022
This month we are looking in depth at the seventh pose of the Sun Salutation sequence – Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana.)
MOVING INTO THE POSE
- Start in Mountain Pose.
- Inhale and lift your arms into Upward Salute Pose.
- Exhale and fold at your hips into Standing Forward Bend Pose.
- Step your right foot back and lower your right knee to the ground into Low Lunge Pose.
- Step back into Four Limb Staff Pose. Alternatively you can step back into Plank Pose or jump back from Standing Forward Bend Pose into Four Limb Staff Pose.
- From Four Limb Staff Pose move into Upward-Facing Dog Pose by pressing the tops of your feet and the palms of your hands on the floor and arching back. Or from Plank Pose lower onto your knees and chest and then lift your head and chest into Cobra Pose.
- Tuck your toes under, lift your pelvis and exhale into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
FOCUS YOUR GAZE
- Your focal point (dristi) is at your navel, nose or the back edge of your mat. Alternatively close your eyes and draw your focus inwards.
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Spread your fingers with your middle fingers pointing forwards.
- Press gently down on the bases and tips of your fingers.
- Contract your triceps to straighten your elbows.
- Rotate your lower arms in.
- Rotate your upper arms out.
- Rotate your armpits towards each other to help broaden your shoulders.
HANDS, ARMS & SHOULDERS
HIPS & LEGS
- Place your feet hip-width apart.
- Spread your toes.
- Lift the inner edges of your feet.
- Activate your quadriceps to extend your knees.
- Stretch and relax your hamstrings and calf muscles.
- Lower your heels towards the ground. Rotate your thighs inwards.
- Lengthen from the back of your neck to your tailbone
- Contract your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum muscles to extend your lumbar spine.
- Contract your psoas muscle to flex your hips.
- Lift your sitting bones and coccyx upwards as you tilt your pelvis forwards.
- Lengthens your back muscles.
- Stretches your hamstrings and calf muscles.
- Increases flexibility in your ankle joints.
- Opens your shoulders.
- Improves your posture.
- Strengthens your arms.
- If you have a neck issue you can place a yoga block under the top of your head to support your neck.
- Bend your knees if your hamstrings are very tight.
- Practice Downward-facing Dog with caution if you have high or low blood pressure.
- Avoid Downward-facing Dog if you have a wrist injury.
“You can be in Downward Dog, hating every second of it. Or you can be in this pose, peaceful and nonreactive, breathing calmly. Either way, you’re in this pose. You decide the quality of your experience. Be the thermostat, not the temperature.” - Lisa Genova