Three words can either bring about feelings pleasure or dread in a yoga class: Downward Facing Dog.
Perhaps one of the most commonly taught poses, Adho Much Svanasana (or Downward Facing Dog) looks simple but can be challenging for many students.
The practitioner is working towards lengthening the hamstrings, calves and muscles of the back which, if tight, create discomfort. As a pose that can be taught many times in one class, this discomfort can easily lead to physical misalignment which can result in injury.
The key to finding ease in downward dog is using the legs in such a way that you take weight off the arms - this is more challenging with tight hamstrings and calves.
By bending the knees in this pose, you activate the quadricep muscles at the front of the thighs and take the back of the legs out of the equation. As a result, you’re able to send your hips higher and create lightness in the hands.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Start in a plank position, heels stacked over toes and shoulders over wrists.
Bend your knees and as you exhale, send the hips towards the back of your mat.
Keep the knees bent for 3 cycles of breath as you activate the shoulders to broaden the upper back and press the hands firmly into the mat.
Keep the head relaxed between the arms.
Pedal the legs out for 3 cycles of breath, alternating legs as you bend one knee and straighten the other.
Keep both legs straight for 4 cycles of breath. If you experience any discomfort in the lower back or back of the legs, feel free to keep a small bend in the knees.