Do This! Not This! ~ Downward Dog ~

I'm excited to introduce my first installment of "Do This! Not This!" Throughout the month of February, I'll be posting how to safely do yoga poses, AND achieve the maximum physical benefit from proper alignment. Check back regularly for more poses as the month continues -- or follow me on Instagram (@yogigoup).

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG

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  • Start in plank pose (shoulders over wrists), neutral spine, heels over toes. By starting in plank, you'll have the right spacing between hands and feet.
  • Root down through each knuckle and press down firmly into the thumb and index finger to relieve pressure in the outer wrists. Minimize the space between your hands/fingers and the mat.
  • Drop your head to release tension in the neck. Gaze toward your feet.
  • Wrap your upper arms toward each other (triceps turn toward the ground, biceps spin toward the sky).
  • Unshrug your shoulders and broaden the upper back. Hollow out the armpits - sounds weird, but look at your armpits and try to create a divot-like space.
  • Lengthen your spine! Downward dog is about spinal extension NOT flexion. This means we want the spine to be long without a curve in the lumbar (low) spine.
  • Tilt the sits bones to the sky (slight anterior tilt of the pelvis). AVOID tilting the sits bones to the heels (posterior pelvic tilt) as it will force the lower back to round.
  • Tight hamstrings? Bend your knees! This is crucial to maintain a neutral spine. The hamstrings will lengthen with consistent practice, and soon enough you'll find you can straighten the knees without compromising the spine. Don't be in a rush!
  • Turn the inner thighs to the sky. Spin the inner ankles back. Press the outer ankles down. 
  • If possible, press the center of each heel to the mat. Don't worry if your feet don't yet touch the ground. Remember, bent knees and lifted heels may be necessary to ensure spinal length. 

I always say "practices makes possible" NOT "perfect." Practicing yoga (asanas) is not about perfection. But we must stay safe as we move into various poses. So be mindful, put in the work, and enjoy the journey.